For the Love Hina character; see Ema Maeda.
Ema (絵馬) are small wooden plaques sold at Shinto shrines in Japan. During a shrine visit or a festival, people may buy an ema from the shrine and write prayers or wishes on the back before hanging the plaques up on a board where the kami spirits may read them.
Most people wish for success in work or Exams, while others wish for marital bliss, to have children, and for good health. Some shrines specialize in certain types ema, and the larger shrines may offer more than one.
- Much like the selling of fortune slips, sales of ema help support the shrine financially.
- The name combines the character 絵 (e )which means “picture” with 馬 (uma) which means “horse”.
- Many ema bear pictures of animals such as horses on the front. This is due to ancient times when people would donate horses to the shrines curry good favor with the spirits. Over time this practice was transformed into using a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse instead of using an actual horse and this later transformed into the various wooden plaques ema sold today.