When I visited the Meiji shrine, there was a tree in the middle of the courtyard with hundreds of little wooden plaques posted around it. The plaques are called "ema". For \500 yen anyone can purchase an ema and write their personal wishes or messages to be submitted to the gods. As I walked around the tree, I could read the messages that people had people had written. Most of the messages were written in Japanese, but as this was a popular tourist site there were also many messages written in different languages. It was as if the hearts of all those who passed by had left their footprints around this large tree so full of life. I too, left my own.
Ema is written in Japanese with two kanji; 絵, which means "picture", and 馬 which means "horse". Horses were once considered the vehicles of the Gods. In ancient Japan, people would sometimes donate horses when visiting the shrine to make wishes. Over the years, this custom changed into a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse. In modern times different types of art can be found on the plaques depending on the shrine. The word 願意 is also often found on the plaque, which means "wish".