ogami ema (Painting)

About this object

History of use

For religious use as pictorial votive offerings in Shinto shrines or temples. The history of ema can be traced back to the eighth century, however, the earliest preserved ema that can be reliably dated is from the end of the 14th century. Even though ema is associated with Shintoism, it is used in relation to people's domestic events, for example, after a baby's birth, parents, grandparents go to the shrine to thank the deities and offer these ema. There are two kinds of ema: koema and oema. Koema are the small size ema which are offered by members of the general populace, either in fulfillment of a vow or as an entreaty to a deity for help in achieving an objective or rectifying some unfortunate condition. Oema are the large ema displayed in conspicuous locations in shrines or temples and focus more on the artistic representations.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

Ema contains two characters: e is the picture or pictorial representation; ma is horse. The horse in Shinto serves not only as a vehicle for various gods, but also as a messenger between the temporal and celestial worlds. People used the horse representation on the wooden plaque to draw or write their wishes, so that the horse carries their wishes to deities of Shinto or God. There are other types of ema, such as of scenes of people praying to the shrine. The type of shrine, or Imari, is representative of fox, one of the devine animals in Shinto. The shape of the frame in indicative of the region it originated.

Physical description

Painted plaque with a wooden frame depicting a woman praying next to a building or shrine. The frame has an architectural feeling. Two characters are on the top of the picture. Also writing on right side of shrine. The back has the words "Daishi Imari" in pencil.