Here are some key Japanese terms used throughout this site in discussing senjafuda. Yōkai-related terms are defined on the pages devoted to those yōkai.
chō 丁: The counter for votive slips, especially when used as a unit of size. A standard size single slip (one chō) is about 15 cm high by 5 cm wide. Slips are described as being two chō in size, three chō, etc.
daimei 題名: Originally, the practice of writing one’s name or pseudonym on a slip of paper and leaving it at a temple or shrine, where it was thought to function as one’s proxy in continued religious vigil; sometimes worshipers would write their pseudonym directly on a wall or other surface. The term then came to refer to the special pseudonyms senjafuda practitioners would use, usually derived from abbreviations of their real-life names and/or their occupations.
daimei fuda 題名札: The simplest form of votive slip, containing the daimei (pseudonym), often the name of the town or neighborhood where the devotee lived, and perhaps the crest or logo of the devotee’s business.
Edo 江戸: The old name for Tokyo (the name was changed in 1869). Also one name for the historical epoch lasting from ca. 1600 to 1868, when Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate, headquartered in Edo. This period is also known by historians as Japan’s “early modern” period. Senjafuda culture took shape in the Edo period, and when practiced by 20th and 21st century people it became an expression of enthusiasm or nostalgia for the Edo period.
ema 絵馬: Wooden devotional plaques. Can take the form of large paintings on wood of religious or historical themes, commissioned by devotees for presentation to temples and shrines. Commonly take the form of small wooden plaques with a painted design, for sale at temples and shrines to devotees; the devotee writes a prayer or request on the back and then hangs the ema at a designated spot on the temple or shrine grounds.
fuda 札: Generally, a small slip of paper, like a tag or label. The most basic term for a votive slip. Sometimes the honorific “o” is attached and slips are called o-fuda お札 (seen with or without the hyphen). Satsu is an alternate reading of the character for fuda and is often seen in discussions of senjafuda.
harifuda 貼り札: A slip made for pasting, as opposed to exchange and collecting. Generally printed in black on white, taking the form of a daimei fuda.
kōkanfuda 交換札: A slip made for exchange and collecting, as opposed to pasting. Often multicolored with pictorial elements.
Meiji 明治: Reign-name of the emperor who reigned from 1868 to 1912. Also the name for this period as a historical epoch.
nōsatsu 納札: Literally “donation slip.” Another term for senjafuda. We’ve elected to use the term senjafuda uniformly throughout this site, but anyone who explores the phenomenon further will see the term nōsatsu frequently in the writings of scholars and collectors.
nōsatsukai 納札会: A meeting of senjafuda (i.e. nōsatsu) enthusiasts for exchanging slips.
ren 連: A club of senjafuda participants. Also used as a suffix with the name of such a club; Tomoe-ren, Hakkaku-ren, etc.
senjafuda 千社札: Literally “thousand-shrine slip.” Also known as nōsatsu. This term is preferred throughout this site as it’s better known in Japan outside of scholars’ and collectors’ circles. Senjafuda insiders prefer the pronunciation “senshafuda,” but “senjafuda” is the pronunciation used by most outsiders.
Shōwa 昭和: Reign-name of the emperor who reigned from 1926 to 1989. Also the name for this period as a historical epoch.
Taishō 大正: Reign-name of the emperor who reigned from 1912 to 1926. Also the name for this period as a historical epoch.
ukiyo 浮世: The “floating world.” Originally the word ukiyo was written with characters meaning “world of sorrow” (憂世) and referred to the Buddhist concept of life as being defined by suffering. In the Edo period, an increasingly pleasure-focused society began to pun on the word by using characters that meant “floating world,” suggesting a buoyant, carefree way of moving through life, i.e. contenting oneself with pleasant surfaces rather than ponderous depths. The term then came to be used to describe arts and entertainments that partook of that spirit—what modern people might call popular culture. The term remains in modern parlance as a shorthand term for Edo period popular culture, arts, and entertainments.
ukiyo-e 浮世絵: Literally “picture of the floating world.” Woodblock printed pictures that often depicted floating-world subjects (popular celebrities, plays, stories, scenes). Such pictures not only documented and celebrated the floating world, they were part of it, since they were inexpensive and widely available, meaning they were an easy way for many people to take home a piece of the floating world. Kōkanfuda were often designed and printed by the same artists and craftspeople who worked in the ukiyo-e industry, and frequently shared pictorial motifs.