Visitors to Japanese shrine use stickers on 'ema' to protect personal data

Some visitors to a Shinto shrine in western Japan have apparently shown wariness of personal data leaks from wooden tablets that they write their wishes on and hang up at the shrine.

Visitors write prayers on the small tablets called "ema" and offer them at shrines.

Nishinomiya Shrine in the city of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, is currently crowded with families who are visiting for a rite of passage for their children.

About 300 ema are hanging on display at a corner of the shrine's grounds. The shrine is also known as "Ebessan."

In September, shrine officials found that some of the ema had stickers on them, apparently to hide personal information, such as worshippers' names and their wishes.

According to the shrine, they suspect that visitors brought the stickers with them as the shrine does not sell or hand them out, and that they used the stickers to prevent their wishes from being read by others or leaked on social media.

A female college student from Kanagawa Prefecture said that this was the first time she saw stickers on ema. She said it's a good way to protect personal information.

A woman in her 40s from Tokyo said she thought it peculiar to put stickers on ema. She wondered if such emas cannot be seen by Shinto gods.

A junior priest at the shrine, Matsui Hideoki, said some people are concerned about possible leaks of personal information at a time when anyone can disseminate information on social media.

He said the shrine is considering moving emas that have stickers to another area of the shrine as there are mixed opinions about the new practice.