hyosatsu and ishiganto plates
Good directions are very hard to come by in Okinawa. Many of the streets are unnamed, and, although the major ones have numbers, there are usually multiple streets with the same number. Adding to the difficulty in giving directions is the fact that the houses don't usually have actual house numbers. There may be a name for the building and unit numbers for apartments, but besides that you have to go by the street and the post or zip code giving you the general area.
For those that own their own homes here, they post name plates called "hyosatsu" outside their doors to identify their homes. When you move into a home, the postman will leave a note in your mailbox asking that you post your name plate so that they may better identify your home. In addition to the family name plates, there are also "ishiganto" plates posted on the walls outside of homes to ward off evil spirits. These are similar to the shisa dogs but are typically placed on walls near forks in the road instead of at building entryways. The evil spirits are said to be better able to turn the corners than go straight into the houses that way. Since there are so many winding roads here, you see quite a few of these plates when driving around.
Both types of plates are usually written in Kanji, the graphic character language used in Japan, but some may also be in Romanji using the Western based character alphabet. Though I'm partial to the ones in Kanji, they all look pretty refined, I'd say...and I wouldn't expect anything less from a home in Japan.
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The images in this post were taken by both my husband and myself.