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Object Name: Votive plaque (ema)
Place of Origin: Japan
Materials Used: Wood and paint
Dimensions: H: 23.0 cm, W: 29.4 cm, D: 1.2 cm (H: 9.1 in, W: 11.6 in, D: .47 in)
Credit Line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. Daniel C. Holtom. X89.864
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.
This ema was presented by Ito Shintaro in 1935. The inscription indicates that it is a reverent presentation intended for Bishamon Tenno, one of the four Buddhist Guardians of the Cardinal Directions and a deity of good fortune.
Source: Exhibition Wall Text: Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006