Tokyobling's Blog

Girls Und Panzer Ema at Oarai Isosaki Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places, Stuff by tokyobling on April 3, 2015

Japan has nothing if not some seriously devoted fans! One of the more popular recent anime shows is the Girls und Panzer (ガールズ&パンツァー), which is basically about teams of girl high school students using WWII tanks in mock battles as a sport. Not having seen or read any of the anime or manga I can’t comment on it but in the series, which focuses on a fictional school in the real city of Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture the famous Oarai Isosaki Shrine is featured. As such, the shrine has been inundated with fans from all over Japan and have even created a special ema votive plate hanging spot. Not only the shrine but the entire city is taking advantage of the spotlight placed on it and if you walk around in town you can see plenty of signs and posters and cardboard figures with the many characters of the show.

The ema are all handmade by fans and many are extremely well done. Not a small percentage of them were hung by one particularly devoted fan that has created a mini story out of the hudnreds of numbered ema he has produced, some of which are pretty worn from hanging outside for months. Of course all of these ema will sooner or later be taken down and burnt on a ritual pyre. Sorry about all the photos! It was easy to get carried away and so many good ones!

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Anime Ema at Kanda Myojin Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 23, 2015

I am still not sure when the tradition of self-decorated anime styled ema started over at the famous Kanda Myojin Shrine near Tokyo’s anime heart – Akihabara. Even then it is one of my favorite things to do in the new to visit the shrine and have a look at this year’s new ema. I visit quite early in the new year and since then I am sure there have been many additions, but these are some of the better ones I found. Normally you buy one of the plain ema at the shrine and write your prayer for the coming year, but some people take the extra step of decorating their own ema. All of these votive plates will eventually be consumed in a ritual fire that will help cleanse the prayers and the people offering them. You can see last year’s post on the same subject over here.

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University Exams – Yushima Tenjin

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 30, 2014

We just passed the height of the university exam seasons and teenagers all over the country have been busy cramming as much as possible before sitting for one or several of these exhausting exams. The entrance exams to university is a big deal in Japan, but maybe less so these days, than in Korea or China. Many students wish to enter the most prestigious nationally famous Tokyo universities and even hotels are doing well catering to the students that traveled far away to sit out the exams in Tokyo. Many universities and colleges have their own exams but there are also national level exams administered centrally by the National Center Test for University Admissions, called the central exams, or sentashiken. Starting in 1990 with 148 universities, this year 843 universities took part, of which 80% were not national or public universities. Testing took place in 693 locations, from testing centers located on tropical islands to centers covered in thick snow. Managing such a massive event must be incredibly difficult but the authorities usually make a good job of it. The test is closely watched by millions of people and is a hot item in news media and the slightest problems or mix ups are widely reported. This year the biggest problem was small mistake in the geography section of the test, and apparently a handful of students in a southern location were given the wrong testing sheet for another section. Considering that 560 672 students took the test the problems were relatively minor. That number includes both students who take the test a second time after having failed to get into their first choice of university the first time around. Those students are called “ronin”, as a reference to the masterless samurai from the old days. They spend a year in limbo, studying hard. Some people even spend years as ronin before giving up or finally being accepted into the university of their choice. If you ask a Japanese parent how their son or daughter did in the test and they use the term “ronin-chu” (in the middle of being a ronin), you know now what they mean!

In order to maximize their chances for the university exams, a lot of students visit one of the shrines dedicated to the Gods of learning and scholars, and offer a votive plates, ema, with their prayers. Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to learning is the Yushima Tenjin, near Ueno, where I took these photos late last year. The ema were hanging over a meter thick in some places and there were many of these ema rails in front of the shrine. Most were dedicated by the students or parents themselves, but some were dedicated by relatives, or even teachers praying for their students success and listing whole rows of names on the back of the ema! It is quite touching to see such concern. Yushima Tenjin is famous with non-students as well, and I also had a look at their gorgeous Chrysanthemum exhibition.

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Anime Ema – Handmade Votive Plates

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 3, 2014

It is the year of the horse and horse symbols are everywhere around Japan especially at shrines. Most people visit a shrine during the first few days of the new years, to say their prayers and ask for good luck during the coming year. One way to help the Gods look favorably upon you is to offer an Ema, a votive plate, where you write your wish and hang it at the shrine where you prayed. I saw these Ema at the Kanda Myojin, one of Tokyo’s main shrines, just a couple of blocks from the famous Akihabara district. Akihabara is famous as the centre for anime and manga fans, and so many aspiring manga artists and fans come to Kanda Myojin to say their prayers. Of course, with their own custom made Ema! Here are a few of the most eye catching Ema I saw when I visited yesterday. I especially like the 3D printed Ema, the first 3D printed objects I have seen in the wild here in Japan. The fans behind these must have spent a lot of time on these!

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