Shisa Artisans

I love shisa lions/dogs from Okinawa. At the Tsuboya district in Naha (five minutes walking south from Kokusai-dori) I had the chance to see several artisans creating these figures that are usually seen at the entrance of houses or on rooftops to protect them against evil spirits and dragons.

Legend has it that an envoy from China came to visit the king of Okinawa (Ryukyu kingdom) and was hosted in the Shuri castle. As a present to the king he brought a necklace with a small figure shaped like a dog/lion. The king liked the present so much that since then he wore the necklace all the time.

Near the king’s castle there was a village by the coast where all the villagers had been terrorized for a long time;a huge sea dragon had been eating their children and destroying their houses. One day the king visited the village, he faced the dragon and raised the shisa figure that he had in his necklace, then a huge rock felt from the sky crushing the tail of the evil dragon and leaving him immobilized for ever.

Depending on who you ask in Okinawa you will hear the story with different variations.

Shisa

Shisa

Shisa

Shisa Artisans

Shisa Artisans

Shisa Artisans

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