Senjafuda could be described as traditional Japanese graffiti. They are essentially name stickers, or calling cards. Senja translates as “thousand shrines” while fuda means “card.” Traditionally about 7 inches long and 2 1/4 inches wide, senjafuda are printed with a person’s name in stylized kanji or characters. These paper slips are then pasted on a surface – a wall, a pillar, a ceiling — at a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple that the person visits. Originally senjafuda were the calling cards of religious pilgrims, and there was notion that the higher the sticker was pasted the more likely the gods were to see it. But today I believe most senjafuda are left by visitors more motivated by something more like “Kilroy was here” than from piety, although the ideal spot remains one that is protected from the weather, difficult to reach, and yet very visible. I don’t know how many senjafuda-wielding pilgrims actually visited 1,000 shrines. Today the slips are usually bundled into packs of 200, which seems like an optimistic goal in itself.
This photo shows senjafuda that were pasted on a shrine in Tsumago on the Nakasendo Road in Japan.
Of course there are hashioki sporting senjafuda. This charming quartet of maneki neko comes from an Etsy vendor named Brenda near Yokohama. Instead of names, the senjafuda on these welcoming cats feature phrases that are appropriate good wishes for a new business: auspicious wishes or good luck, strong business, invite luck, and thousands of customers (and yen) will come. I don’t know why they look like they’re sleeping; maybe their eyes are closed so they can concentrate on bringing good luck.
According to Elizabeth Kititani in her book Vanishing Japan: Traditions, Crafts & Culture, a well-placed senjafuda can last 30 years or more, and the ink that the kanji is written with may eventually be absorbed by the surface where the name sticker is pasted. That would be a very good run of luck for any business or restaurant which would use hashioki like these.