Posted by: softypapa | October 4, 2007

Japan Shinto Religious Prayer Board – Inari Kitsune Ema


Japanese religious prayer plaque.  These items are called ema in Japan where they are traditionally used by believers to communicate their wishes and thanks to deities worshiped at Shinto shrines.  Shinto is the native religion of Japan and an animist system supporting a pantheon of innumerable major and minor gods.  Believers often make donations to the shrines they visit, and in the past wealthy devotees might show their appreciation and respect through the gift of a live horse.  Horses were highly valued in old Japan and over time less well-to-do believers began offering their prayers on wooden plaques which featured a painted image of a horse.  The word ema in fact translates into English as “horse picture”.  Eventually the images on Ema began to reflect a wider range of subjects, with new favorites being representations of the animals within the Oriental zodiac as well as creatures associated with shrine deities; such as the magical fox who acts as the messenger for the powerful god of the rice harvest, Inari.  To use an ema the believer must first make or, more commonly, buy an ema from a Shinto shrine.  The believer then writes his prayer onto the board and brings it to the shrine to be hung upon a special rack set out for this purpose.  Ema remain very popular in Japan where they are used by believers during every stage of life; from the student praying for success in schools exams, to young married couples hoping for children as well as the elderly offering thanks for a full and blessed life.

About the Listed Item

Brand new wooden ema prayer board featuring images of Inari kitsune fox messengers beside a torii shrine gate.  The Japanese writing on the ema includes the word kairan meaning “to open luck” as well as other expressions calling for “no illness” and “good fortune for the household”.  The backside of the ema is blank in order to provide space where the believer may write their prayer.  This particular ema comes from Minowa Inari Shinto shrine located in the seaside city of Shimizu, Japan near Mt. Fuji.  This shrine is over 400 years old and dedicated to Inari, the god of cereals and grains who protects the rice harvest and is one of the most important and revered of all Shinto deities.  Please click here to see more religious charms, amulets and talismans!

Height: 3.5 inches (9.0 centimeters)
Width: 5.5 inches (14.0 centimeters)
Weight: 1.1 ounces (31 grams)

Click here to see more ema prayer boards!
here to see other Shinto religious items!
here to see additional treasures from Japan!

More about the Shinto religion

Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism).  Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself.  The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.”  Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist.  The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods.  Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities while other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.

Shinto gods are called kamiKami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami.  The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine.  Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope.  The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle.  This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god.  The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again.  In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer.  Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan.  Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.

More photos below!

item code: INV-0000073_04
category code: (sacred_object)
ship code: L1650


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