Do you know those small wooden plaques called ema 「絵馬」, displayed at almost any Shinto shrine? The worshipers are writing their prayers or wishes and then they hang them on specially designated racks. Usually, ema are made with an approximately-rectangular shape, painted with various themes: the shrine’s crest, zodiacs signs, animals, kami (Shinto gods) or even… anime characters.
But there are some shrines with unique shaped ema, as you can see in this photo from the Fushimi Inari Taisha from Kyoto. These ema are shaped like a kitsune head, kitsune (Japanese word for fox) being the messengers of Inari Ōkami, the Japanese kami of fertility, rice, agriculture, industry and success. The Inari kitsune are always colored in white, the color of good omen.
Kitsune are considered tricksters and shape-shifters, taking sometimes a human form. And probably that’s why many worshipers paint them with cute expressions, resulting cheerful and unique designs:
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: