a study in shisa dogs


P1070916 Everywhere you look here in Okinawa you're bound to find a pair of shisa dogs. They're used on almost every building at the entryway on a gate or beside a door to ward off evil spirits. On one side the shisa has its mouth open to let out evil spirits, and the other side it has its mouth closed to keep good spirits inside.

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A cross between a lion and a dog, the statues are an influence of both Chinese and Japanese cultures. In China, the guardian lions are used in entryways, whereas in Japan the guardian dogs are used. The shisa version is found predominantly in the Ryukyu islands, including Okinawa, where the two cultures heavily merged over centuries.

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Traditional Okinawan home with shisa dogs at the entry gate.