Ema literally means “a picture of a horse.” In ancient time, it was said that people offered real horses to shrines when they prayed for special wishes. But since ordinary people couldn’t afford to offer horses, they started offering wooden tablets with pictures of horses on them. Today, people write down their wishes on the blank side of an ema and hang it in a shrine, where it will stay until the end of the year, Most ema don’t have drawings of horses on them but feature a zodiac animal or the crest of a shrine.

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