E-ma, 絵馬, picture-horse, small wooden plaques offered at Shintō shrines. The pentagonal board has a hole for a cord for hanging it. The wooden plaque is cut so that it has five corners, go–kaku, 五角, which is wordplay on 合格 , gather-status, success. The shape has its function: the top edge is cut with an angle that repels water, rather like a roof on a building. The ema is hung outside in the weather. A person would purchase an ema at a shrine, write a prayer, a request, thanks, etc., and ask the deity for help. The ema is then attached to a rack at the shrine, or take it away as a souvenir.
Once, the horse itself was the offering to the shrine. In time, pictures of horses were offered, and then small wooded boards with horses and various other animals, flowers, pictures of all sorts, etc.
In Japan, the hōju is placed atop the horse’s rump, shiri, 尻, whereas, the treasure jewel in Tibet is located on the back, where a saddle is placed.
This picture is of the wood carving of a Shin-me, 神馬, God-horse, at Shira-yama Hi-e Jin-ja, 白山比咩神社, White-mountain Equal-(what) God-shrine.
Of importance is the cluster of hōju, 宝珠, treasure-jewel, on the back of the horse mimicking the wind horse of Tibet. Such horses are found at various shrines around Japan, including at Ise Jingū. Hi-kyū, 貔貅, brave beast- heraldic-beast, ninth son of the Dragon King.
Body of a horse, river, wind, has wings. Looks like a lion, became identified with a horse, which flew and became the soul of Tibet. Carried the Hōju on its back. Become ema in japan. Horse offering at shrines. Kasuga Tai-sha, 春日大社, Spring-sun Great-shrine, and Kami-ga-mo Jin-ja, 上賀茂神社, Upper-joy-luxuriant God-shrine.
The Shintō sacred horse is called a shin-me, 神馬, god-horse, as they are offerings to the gods, no human should ride them.
The monkeys are the world-celebrated “San–zaru,” 三猿, Three-monkeys: mi-zaru, 見猿, see-monkey; kika-zaru, 聞か猿, hear-monkey; iwa-zaru, 言わ猿, speak-monkey. There is clever wordplay on ‘zaru’ which sounds like a negative, so that mi-zaru sounds like see-not. These creatures are a popular architectural detail at the shrine to Toku-gawa Ie-yasu, 徳川家康, Virtue-river House-peace, first of the Tokugawa Shō-guns, 将軍, General-military.