Vandalized ema originally expressing support for the Hong Kong protests Photo: @nursemens4321

Vandalism on rise at Japanese shrines as pro-Hong Kong protest prayer boards are defaced

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

In the courtyard of Japanese Shinto shrines, and many of the country’s Buddhist temples too, you’ll find racks of ema. Small wooden boards decorated with auspicious illustrations, visitors purchase ema from the shrine/temple attendants and write a wish on it, and once it’s hung on the rack, the gods are supposed to take care of the rest and grant your desire.

It’s a fun tradition that goes back centuries, but in recent months some of Japan’s most prominent places of worship have seen their ema display areas becoming proxy battlefields for a dispute taking place thousands of kilometers away. Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple, one of the city’s most famous landmarks and sightseeing destinations, has been finding ema that have been vandalized if their written wishes show support for the ongoing Hong Kong political protests.

This isn’t something that’s only happening in Kyoto, either. Nara’s Kasuga Shrine, Osaka’s Hokoku Shrine, and Kagawa Prefecture’s Konpira Shrine have also been reporting similar problems. Ema on which the original purchasers wrote messages such as “Hang in there, people of Hong Kong” and “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” a rallying cry for protestors, have had their messages crossed out or written over with “One China.” In extreme cases, the ema themselves have been found snapped into pieces.

It’s worth mentioning that the practice of using ema to wish for broad social changes or world-peace-level aspirations is largely something done by foreign tourists, and the defaced ema that have been found had both their original wishes, as well as any graffiti covering it, written in Chinese or, in some cases, English. Japanese citizens are far more likely to wish for something personal, and while written-in-Japanese ema asking for the health of friends and family are common, so are such secular desires as passing a school entrance exam, finding a boyfriend/girlfriend, or scoring tickets to a coveted idol/boy band concert.

Because of that, it’s debatable how deep of reverence the average Japanese person has for ema. Still, Japan’s shrines and temples don’t want their ema racks turning into venues for Internet-style political bickering, especially for something that’s happening outside their country’s borders. As of November 13, Hokoku Shrine has signs, written in Japanese, English, and Chinese, asking visitors to refrain from acts of ema vandalism.

Source: NHK News Web via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Part of the family – Tokyo Shinto shrine’s blessings for children now available for pets too

-- Spirited Away meals and merchandise coming to new Studio Ghibli exhibition in Tokyo

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Anyone found vandalizing property needs to be fined severely.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Security cameras for deterrence are cheap now

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Any people found vandalizing property in Japan need to be fined severely...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

oldman 13:

Wait, so Chinese people are responsible for both wishing the protesters well and also destroying such messages?

Oy vey.

Err.... yes? Not the same people of course, but those who believe the mainland China propaganda and those who don't respectively. I am not sure what your problem here is.

Don´t you see people wishing Trump well and hating orange man on these pages too?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How does anyone know it's not Chinese residents doing both?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I wonder who could be responsible for such acts. What a disrespectful motive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Have you ever thought that the Chinese (tourists) desire the freedom to express their thoughts?

They can very much express their thoughts in mainland China, as long their thoughts parrot the thoughts of the government. No need to go to Japan if they way want to rant against HK. Why they could not express in mainland China is support for HK, like on the defaced ema.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Brainwashed mainland Chinese morons. It demonstrates the power of propaganda. They stay in their Bejing indoctrination echo chamber, very much like our CNN watching Trump haters here.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Have you ever thought that the Chinese (tourists) desire the freedom to express their thoughts? They can’t in their country but they think they can in Japan a democratic country.

Someone needs to tell them that defacing an ema is wrong just like shooting arrows at the police and chucking petrol bombs are as well. Vandalism is not freedom of expression.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It could be an easy bit of propaganda too...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

China is scary. They have long tentacles that are reaching even to Japan! They think they can bully the whole world and make them do their bidding. Often times, the lure of money through trade agreements enables them to do that. Many of us are suckers for money and will quickly sacrifice our own principles for a buck. It is true that the human heart is sinful.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I wrote one at Meiji jingu for my Father's strength to make it through chemo shortly before he passed away. So it's definitely not just a bunch of material stuff up there. Vandalizing them is cruel, even if you disagree with whatever is written on it. They mean something to a lot of people and it is not up to any other person to pass judgement on a wish or a prayer at a sacred place. The people who did this need to be thrown out of the country, seriously.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Wait, so Chinese people are responsible for both wishing the protesters well and also destroying such messages?

Oy vey.

@ Old man, sorry, your just a little confused this time, friend. The freedom-loving Hong Kong Citizens (and others from around the world) have been buying the ema at shrines , and writing prayers for peace on them. They pray for democracy and freedom in HK.

The Mainland Chinese (communists) tourists have been destroying these peaceful messages. They despise democracy and hate freedom.

Very, very different groups!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Wait, so Chinese people are responsible for both wishing the protesters well and also destroying such messages?

Oy vey.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Well done Chinese tourists, cementing your place as the worlds most respectful tourists.


14 ( +15 / -1 )

If you read them, it is definitely true that Japanese people use ema for personal stuff, sometimes things better described as material, like passing a driving test, not simply secular. Most churches worldwide will pray for secular things like world peace or an end to famine. These are secular but are not material.

Anyone defacing ema should be stopped. As Big Lebowski says, what's written is only your opinion man.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Gee, I wonder who the culprits could be ?

13 ( +13 / -0 )

If the brainwashed Communist PRC tourists are identified defacing freedom-loving HK Citizen messages, they should be arrested, deported and banned from entering Japan for 5 years. CCTV on EVERY shrine, please.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

More proof that certain groups of tourists respect absolutely nothing.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Utterly disrespectful. Another example of dumb cultural insensitivity by certain groups of tourists.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

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