I have an endless fascination with Shinto Shrines, and one of my favourite parts of them are the ema, small wooden plaques that anyone can write their wishes on. Some are just plainly written, while others are real works of art. After jotting down your wishes, you hang them into a designated area of the shrine, where the kami (gods/spirits) receive them and, with a little luck, grant your wishes.

At shrines that are popular with tourists, you can often read wishes in many different languages. Everyone is free to leave an ema. They usually cost a small fee, from 200 to 500 yen (around $3-6), and depending on the shrine, you can just take one and leave the donation in a box (Japanese are honest and trustworthy), or you can buy one at the shop from one of the miko (shrine maiden). Even if you don't believe that this works, it's fun and a great way to support the shinto shrines, which are mostly family-run and in dire need of the money.

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