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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

Tokyo Prayer Card Week Continues




So what are prayer cards, you ask? Commonly referred to as ema, they're small wooden plaques Shinto worshipers use to jot down prayers or wishes. At least in the case of Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, the cards are collected over the course of a year and burned during a yearly ceremony. This one was found in near the Sensoji Temple (adjacent to the huge market that all the tourists go nuts over).

So how do cartoon monkeys work into the whole thing? [UPDATE: A reader from Eugene wrote in to report the obvious. These photos were taken in 2004, the year of the monkey.]

One side of each card had an image of lovey-dovey florescent chimps, the other prayers written in Japanese. I'm by no means an expert in Shintoism or can read a single character of the language but it's pretty obvious that the building adjacent to where I found this one was a wedding chapel. Nearby a priest was leading a young couple on a tour of the grounds.

Some of the cards featured two gorillas kissing. Another had a chimpanzee cradling a baby. One even featured a boy monkey in a bed with two girl monkeys. Think that's crazy? A card nearby had a girl monkey making out with a gardener monkey while her monkey husband was getting into a car, evidentially on his way to a job at a company no doubt owned and operated by....

...monkeys.

Ok, I made those last two up. While the prayers were all in Japanese, it's pretty obvious which each one was for: happiness, well being, pregnancy, etc. As for the one pictured above, I have no clue. That cartoon monkey couple looks, well, lobotomized. Maybe it contained a prayer for inexpensive lobotomies.

Aren't you glad you took the time to read this? Did you really think you would be spending a few minutes tonight reading about monkey prayer cards from Japan? I've spent a grand total of five minutes looking for information on why these cards featured simians instead of a wide variety of representatives from the cartoon animal kingdom. I couldn't find anything. I guess I'll never know.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for more photos like this, click here.

Tomorrow: a prayer card written by a random Portland resident. Here's a link to yesterday's card.

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