Shisa, Shisa, Shisa Everywhere

From Chinese Shi comes Okinawa’s Shisa, a cross between a lion and a dog.


Each countries such as China, Japan and Korea have different versions of it. Rarely you might stumble upon it in other parts of the world.


There are noticeable things in Okinawa – the beautiful beaches, the 360-degree low clouds, vending machines, and of course, shisa.


Older ones were traditionally placed in imperial places and wealthy people’s homes. In modern Okinawa, shisas are everywhere! You can see it on rooftops.



Being that they serve as wards, they are usually positioned in front of houses and business establishments.


The one to the left is normally has its mouth close; they attract and keep the good spirits in.


The one on the right is usually has its mouth open; they shoo away bad spirits.


There are also in plaques in different shapes of usually square, rectangle or circle.

Shisa, in general, have eyes that are magnetizing as if challenging whoever looks at it.


In old Okinawa, shisa are mostly fierce-looking.


There are plenty of shisa variations.




Some are accessorized.


In modern Okinawa, versions of shisas are made friendlier and more appealing.


They can be highly decorated.

Some are candid.



They are now in colorful designs.


Some depicting Okinawa’s culture.




… and in different sizes.


Being that shisa attribute largely to Okinawa culture, they are now sold as souvenirs.


Shisa, shisa, shisa everywhere!


And as proven by the overload of shisa pictures on this post, I just can’t get enough of it.




Learn more about shisa from another currently Okinawa-based blogger, Eflida, and her blog, Because i am uniquely and wonderfully made.

About these ads

About rommel

I'm great at nothing. I'm not awful at all. I'm just whoasome. And that's all you need to know. :)


  1. formyfrog

    Thank you. I learned something new today!

  2. It is interesting how Japanese people from Okinawa are playing with their idol. Thank you for another piece of information and nice pictures.

    • Thanks, Lautal. It is still amazing though that even in this modern world, with big improvements in technology and rising buildings, Okinawans and the rest of Japan are still very rooted with the old traditions, newly modified or not. That’s something I can’t confidently as much with m own motherland, Philippines.

      I see you posted some on you blog. Will make the visit soon.

  3. Amy

    Historically, Chinese and Japanese have passion for Shisa. This is a cool post! Thank you are making effort to introduce Japanese culture to us!

  4. Thanks for enlightening me on a little Japanese history and the Shisa. Some of them are really funny….especially the fountain one :-)

  5. Love all the Shisa…The first one is beautiful! Next time I’m in San Francisco, I have to go have a look at the two Shisa at the entrance to Chinatown to see if they follow the left one mouth closed and right one mouth open.

  6. I love them Rommel – but the traditional ones not the modern. Do you have a favourite?

    • I do like the traditional better, but they really are intimidating looking. The souvenirs I got are the traditional ones. I do however also love the ones that depict Japanese culture. I want to buy a shisa set wearing the Eisa costumes and taiko drum.

  7. Love the variety of Shisa faces !

  8. I remember when I was a kid living in Okinawa and I saw shisas literally EVERYWHERE. Thank you for explaining what the closed mouth/open mouth pairing is supposed to mean – it was always a mystery to me!

  9. I love the Shisa! How neat to see it in so many places with so many variations! I bet you own a few. Thanks for sharing:)

  10. Fantastic Shisas, Rommel. I love the one in flip flops, playing the banjo. :)

  11. lots of lions in Japan :)

  12. Quite a collection of Sishas Rommel! Particularly love the ones on plaques, and the one in flip flops :-)

  13. Fascinating post with wonderful, expressive photos.

  14. Fascinating article and very fun pictures, Rommel. I googled a bit and found the info that the ones with the open mouth are female and one with the clenched jaw male shisas :D

  15. I had no idea that they were so abundant in Okinawa. It makes me think of how ancient Crete had variations of bulls horns everywhere.

    • Thank you, Cocomino for the link. You’re the best! I think those shisa are very similar to some of the shisa here. You can still see the dissimilarities though. And I think I’ve seen some of that kind of shisa here in Okinawa as well.

  16. I am much more drawn to the traditional Shisa. Love what you are teaching us about Japanese culture. :)

    • Agreed! Well the modern ones aremainly for souvenirs, or likely to be seen in businesses. They still mostly use the traditional ones as gate guards for houses.

  17. I am sure you have already studied photography, formally. I admit, the pictures is what I look at first before reading. And your pictures now, Rom, are way stunning than before that you can already tell stories out of them.

  18. I am sure you have already studied photography, formally. I admit, the pictures are what I look at first before reading. And your pictures now, Rom, are way stunning than before that you can already tell stories out of them.

    • No! I have not. Just this afternoon there is a setting in my camera that’s messing up my pictures, but I could not, for the life of me, don’t know how to change a certain setting. Thanks for the kind words, Sony.

  19. Fierce little chaps! We have two in our garden but they’re almost smothered by the greenery. :)

  20. Awesome. I was expecting a nargileh/hookah/shisha when I opened this post, but this was a cool surprise!

  21. Pingback: Shuri Castle: Birthplace of Karate « The Sophomore Slump

  22. Pingback: Shuri Castle « The Sophomore Slump

  23. What a great collection of pictures! Awesome! :-)

  24. I appreciate your checking out my new blog CHICKENurture and for introducing me to your blog! I have always wondered about the story behind shisas and you have explained them simply and beautifully with your photos. It makes me want to get a couple for my chicken yard to scare away the predators! Thank you for sharing.

  25. Nice to get some background on the shisa and very telling to be shown all these traditional and contemporary examples. Thanks for dropping by.

  26. I love these! What a great collection of pictures.

  27. Interesting sculptures – merci, too, for visiting my blog.

  28. What an amazing collection of photos.

  29. Love this! I like your playful style as you introduce me to something that I have seen but not really had any context for. Thanks! I’ll be looking for shisas shisas everywhere now :)

  30. TBM

    I’ve seen these but didn’t know much about them. Now I need a few to ward off evil spirits. Does that help with writer’s block?

    • Ahihihi… You don’t need a shisa for that. A walk on the beach or a nearby park, perhaps? :D i wonder if I see a shisa holding a pad and a pen. I think that would be very rare.

  31. Pingback: Shisa – Creatures from Okinawan myth - Japan Travel Blog

  32. Pingback: Huntington Library in San Marino, California | The Sophomore Slump

  33. Pingback: Bunnies, Bunnies, Bunnies Everywhere!!! | The Sophomore Slump

  34. Pingback: Shisha, Shisa, Shisa Everywhere 2.0 | The Sophomore Slump

Don't be shy to say hi.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,224 other followers

%d bloggers like this: