SoraNews24: “Vandalism on rise at Japanese shrines as pro-Hong Kong protest prayer boards are defaced”

Casey Baseel, quoting a NHK News article:

…[I]n recent months some of Japan’s most prominent places of worship have seen their ema display areas becoming proxy battlefields for a dispute taking place thousands of kilometers away. Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple, one of the city’s most famous landmarks and sightseeing destinations, has been finding ema that have been vandalized if their written wishes show support for the ongoing Hong Kong political protests.

This isn’t something that’s only happening in Kyoto, either. Nara’s Kasuga Shrine, Osaka’s Hokoku Shrine, and Kagawa Prefecture’s Konpira Shrine have also been reporting similar problems. Ema on which the original purchasers wrote messages such as “Hang in there, people of Hong Kong” and “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” a rallying cry for protestors, have had their messages crossed out or written over with “One China.” In extreme cases, the ema themselves have been found snapped into pieces.

You can find these ‘prayer boards’ or ema (絵馬) at almost every (manned) Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples where people write their wishes on wooden blocks and hang it in public. These are eventually burned for the local kami(s) to receive people’s wishes.

According to NHK, the reaction on Weibo was mixed:

中国版ツイッターのウェイボーでは、さまざまな意見が相次いでいます。

Various comments have appeared one after the other on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

中には「学業や恋愛などの願いを書く絵馬の中に、抗議活動を支持する絵馬があるのはなんともいえない複雑な気持ちだ」といった抗議活動に批判的なコメントのほか、「日本の神社にまで行って政治的な主張をすること自体ばかげているが、人が書いた絵馬に落書きをする行為はさらにばかげている」と落書きそのものを批判するコメントも見られます。

Among the comments are ones critical one of protests [in Hong Kong]: “I feel inexplicably complicated about emas that support the protests amongst other emas that wish for good grades and finding someone you love.” Other comments are critical about the graffiti itself: “It looks stupid to go all to way to a shrine in Japan to express your political views, but it also looks stupid to scribble on other people’s ema”.

Granted, people usually pray for good health or good luck on exams, rather than a political solution that China will never satisfy. But I find it extremely offensive on every level for folks to come judge what’s written on other people’s ema or even vandalize or destroy them.

It’s not just a matter of freedom of thought or freedom of expression. Places of worship are safe spaces for our hopes and fears. That must not change.