Give power for earlier recovery from the disaster

By Kikki - Last updated: 火曜日, 7月 5, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

[From Ofunato city-my stricken home town]

– East Japan Great Earthquake & Tsunami Disaster-

‘Hotate-ema’ at the lovely railway station ‘Koishihama’

‘Hotate-ema’ or small shells of scallop on which worshippers write their prayers or wishes for earlier recovery from the disaster, has been increasing in number at Koishihama Station on the Minami-rias Line of Sanriku Railway. The station has changed its name from ‘小石浜 or pebbly beach’ to ‘恋し浜 or lovely beach’ after top-brand scallops in Yoshihama town in 2009.

It is said that if you put down wishes on a piece of scallop shell and hang it up in the station, your wishes will come true. The station has become popular among young people as the power spot for matchmaking. Wishes for a love match, good health, and safety of family were commonly seen before the tsunami, but recent massaged are something different. Wishes for earlier reconstruction form the disaster and words to express gratitude for supports are now popular. Fold paper into scallops instead of real shells are temporally used, because real scallop shells are hard to get now. Although, the station could be left unhurt from the tsunami, service on the Minami-rias Line has been suspended. Even under such a condition, a number of people, including people from Kyushu, visits the station and put their wishes down on a ‘Hotate-ema.’

Actuall Ema in Japanese Shrines


Ema (絵馬) are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) receive them. They bear various pictures, often of animals or other Shinto imagery, and many have the word gan’i (願意), meaning “wish”, written along the side. In ancient times people would donate horses to the shrines for good favor, over time this was transferred to a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse, and later still to the various wooden plaques sold today for the same purpose.

Ema are sold for various wishes. Common reasons for buying a plaque are for success in work or on exams, marital bliss, to have children, and health. Some shrines specialize in certain types of these plaques, and the larger shrines may offer more than one. Sales of ema help support the shrine financially.

At some shrines, such as Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, one can find ema in many languages, as tourists leave their own wishes and prayers.


View Koishihama Station in a larger map

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