For a country where people are extremely disciplined, many foreigners wonder where do all the stickers on the columns and even ceilings of shrines come from?
These papers stuck on columns, ceilings or walls of a shrine and sometimes, even on wooden statues of dieties are called “senjafuda” (千社札, literally, thousand shrine tags). The practice of using senjafuda started in the Heian period when only the privileged classes were allowed to visit shrines. In order to make their journey noticeable, the rich visited many famous religious spots (counting up to a thousand even).
The oldest form of senjafuda were actually ones made from wood. Today you can find these in souvenir shops and even get your name engraved at various tourist spots!
In the Edo period, this trend changed and people starting making senjafuda using washi (Japanese paper). Of course, over time, they transformed from black and white to colorful versions. The senjafuda has the name of the person engraved or printed. Originally made from washi and sumi, the paste used to stick them was also natural “rice mush”. The walking staffs used by pilgrims would be used to paste the senjafuda.
There used to be a process to acquire a space to stick your senjafuda through the shrine: some would post it on a prominent location while others tried to reach the topmost section of the shrine. However, due to the increasing number of visitors, most shrines now ban the use of senjafuda. One of the key reasons being the newer versions use adhesives that harm the wood.
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