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Object Name: Votive plaque (ema)
Place of Origin: Japan
Date: Late 19th-early 20th century
Materials Used: Wood and paint
Dimensions: H: 23.6 cm, W: 33.4 cm, D: 1.2 cm (H: 9.3 in, W: 13.1 in, D: .47 in)
Credit Line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. Daniel C. Holtom. X89.846
In Japan, people who seek divine assistance in overcoming difficulties may place a votive offering known as an ema in a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine. The illustrations on the ema reflect the petitioner’s problem. Petitioners may paint their own illustration, but as far back as the Edo period (1600-1868), ema were also painted in commercial studios and offered for sale to clients. The petitioner typically added an inscription to the purchased ema, often including a personal name and date. An ema is also sometimes presented simply as an expression of thanks to the deities.
The inscription on this ema indicates that it is a reverent presentation for Sarudahiko, one of the founding gods in Japanese myth who became a sacred spirit in the Shinto religion. Sarudahiko is often represented as a monkey, as this is the meaning of the first character of his name, saru. In the ema, he wears a Shinto priest’s hat and holds in his hand a type of offering used by a priest to purify a sacred place where a spirit resides.
Source: Exhibition Wall Text: Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006