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Silent Japan: The Images – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series of blog posts on the images that were featured in my recent Silent Japan photography exhibition.

The following 2 images titled “Torii, Study 2, Shirakawa Hachimangu Shrine, Honshu, Japan. 2009” and “Photographer, Shirakawa Hachimangu Shrine, Honshu, Japan. 2009” was taken at the same shrine as the image featured in Part 1.  These 2 images are meant to be displayed as a set.  The images on their own are fine but putting them side by side adds “life” into the image of the Torii gate on the left and answers the question of “What is the photographer taking a photo of?” in the image on the right.

The following image titled “Ema, Study 2, Shirakawa Hachimangu Shrine, Honshu, Japan. 2009” was also taken at the same shrine.  If you look closely at the image of the 2 people standing under the Torii gate from Part 1, beyond the right pillar, you can see the ema tablets at the front.  Ema are small wooden tablets on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes.  The worshippers then hang them up at the shrine where they hope the kami (spirits or gods) would read them and grant them their prayers or wishes.  Common prayers or wishes have to do with family, exams, finances, work, and marriage.  The practice of ema goes all the way back to the Nara Period (710-794) when a picture of a horse was offered to a shrine instead of a real horse.  So for something that is really traditional and goes back over a 1000+ years, it was quite unusual to see all these anime/manga characters drawn on them.  Initially, I thought that the shrine had produced the ema with the drawings already on them.  But on a closer look, all of them were unique and drawn by the person who bought the ema!  A Japanese visitor to my exhibition mentioned that drawing anime/manga characters on ema was a form of “Power Play” where the person who draws them, hopes to get some of the power/skills/etc that the anime/manga character has.

I read before visiting Shirakawago that it was used as the village where a Japanese video game series and subsequently an anime series (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) was based.  Quite a number of the characters drawn on the ema are characters from the anime series.  The Hachimangu Shrine featured quite prominently in the anime so I guess it was not surprising to find the anime characters drawn on the ema.  The anime featured quite a high level of violence so the Shirakawago village residents were non too pleased when the video game and anime was released.  On the flip side, the number of tourists has increased.