- Try It Once & You’ll Never Forget. Maguro Don with Big, Fresh Tuna Slices at Maguroya Honpo
- World Heritage Site・Enjoying walking around Shuri Castle
Funky Fun “MITSUO Seasir Museum” (in Naha) For Shisa Experiences!
post : 2019.02.26 01:00
MITSUO Seasir Museum is located about in the middle of Naha’s main street Kokusai Street, where Okiei Street joins. It’s just around the corner from the T-junction, with a striking red exterior, which has become an SNS-worthy spot for tourists.
The shop interior is just as exciting as the exterior with full of shisas creating a lively mood! The unique “Shisa Apartment,” created by the shop owner and plaster shisa artist Mitsuo Miyagi, welcomes you at the entrance. He explains that it is something like a “shisa mandala,” in which several shisas show their individual originality--wow, it’s already quite interesting how unique and deep his imagination is, isn’t it?
Shisa has now widely been known throughout Japan as a souvenir as well as a craftwork of Okinawa. Plaster shisa is originally a house guardian sitting on the roof of a house. The culture started when a roof-tile artisan made a shisa(s) with leftover plaster and tiles and gave it to the house owner. “It was going to be disposed as waste materials, but instead, it became an ecological art as a plaster shisa. I’m amazed how people at that time were not only artisans, but also eco-artists!,” said Mitsuo.
The plaster shisas in the shop are also made of plaster, which is carefully blended with coral pieces, and red tiles from old traditional houses. Owner Mitsuo and other on-site craftsmen work there as the shop staff as well.
Inside the shop, you can find various sizes and types of one-off shisas and novelty goods, such as palm-sized adorable shisas, T-shirts, bags, tenugui hand towels, chopstick rests, key rings, and so on. What’s more is that, besides their high creativity and artistry, there’s another secret why the shop is so popular: two of the Japanese professional baseball teams that got shisas from them have won the championship! And now their shisas are praised as “good fortune shisas” that increase your luck.
So, do you want to try their “plaster shisa painting” experience for all ages? Each shisa for it is handmade by craftsmen, and you can paint it as you want to and make the one and only shisa in the world. The fees are from *979 yen per piece or from *2,160 yen for a pair of shisas. Each shisa has a different face, so pick the one that you click with.
You will use the same acrylic paints the craftsmen use, which are mixed with hide glue. They’re happy to help you, giving tips on brushstroke, painting ideas, and so on. I was able to learn directly from the owner on that day. He says that some customers finish painting within 20 to 30 mins and that children have more free imagination than adults, so they finish up instantly. This quick-and-easy activity fits into your schedule for Kokusai Street sightseeing.
Here is the tip to finish up well: first, start with black lines so that you can see your shisa’s facial expression to get more ideas.
The hands-on experience is held in their underground gallery space where Mitsuo’s powerful shisas are sitting and will give you artistic inspiration and excitement to move your brush smoother. In that room, there’re a shisa daruma doll and also a painting hung from the ceiling which is inspired by a famous Rinpa-school painter Tawaraya Sotatsu’s “Wind and Thunder Gods”--but his one is a Ryukyuan “Shisa-style Wind and Thunder Gods” that is a fusion of two different art forms that have the spirit of nature worship in common.
When the black lines are dry, then apply other colors. You can get coloring ideas from the craftsmen’s shisas in the shop or go entirely with your own ideas. You can also write your favorite phrase, wish, or goal on the bottom part.
Looking back at the root of shisa, it started from the Egyptian sphinx, and through Europe and Asia, it came into Okinawa. “It’s often said that shisa is a talisman against evil but precisely speaking, it’s purification, so shisa doesn’t send Majimun (evil in Okinawan dialect) away, but it purifies it and transforms it into a good thing to live happily all together! Shisa has Ryukyu’s high spirituality in itself,” Mitsuo said enthusiastically, and I think that’s why the shisas from MITSUO Seasir Museum are full of “delight” and “love” to make you feel warmth and generosity.
Besides the “plaster shisa painting experience” for tourists on a tight schedule, they have “plaster shisa making experience (*4,100 yen),” which is popular with repeat tourists. In this experience, you can make a palm-sized, yet authentic, dynamic plaster shisa by your hands.
To make a shisa shape, you will use a wooden stick as the center bone and add plaster on it, so it’s actually quite easy to get that characteristic pose of shisa. This plan gives you plentiful 1 to 2 hours for making They have a customer who says, “this time, I will finish shaping, and next time (I come to Okinawa), I will paint it;” their repeat customers enjoy shisa making at their own pace.
When you finish up your one and only shisa, make an energetic pose and roaring face to the camera for a commemorative photo. In Okinawa, they say the craftsmen of shisa and pottery basically don’t say “make” something but say it “was born.” So let’s give birth to your very own lovely shisa with them.
If you want to take this fun experiment home as your souvenir, they have an at-home kit, so don’t forget to check it out, too!
MITSUO Seasir Museum
Address: 2-1-3 Makishi, Naha City, Okinawa
Open every day
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Naoko Tsuruta