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One Look at MITSUO Seasir (Naha) will Bring Great Energy & Good Luck
post : 2019.11.21 18:00
With large, glaring eyes and sharp fangs peaking from their mouths, the Shisa are intimidating and appear very tough. Perhaps that’s what many people picture when they think of Shisa lions.
Breaking such stereotypes of Shisa are those found at MITSUO Seasir Art Museum located just off of lively Kokusai Street in Naha. The Shisa that line the shelves in the shop are more than just a little different from the commonly seen Shisa, and are very colorful and have charming expressions. Many of them are small enough to sit on the palm of your hand, and the price is very reasonable. They’re actually quite sweet that you’ll want to pick up a few.
The creator of these charming Shisa is Mitsuo Miyagi, a Shisa artist based in Okinawa who works around the globe. Mitsuo-san’s father was also a Shisa craftsman and so since he was a child, he was always involved in making Shisa.
Mituso-san shares with a smile, “My father gave me allowance whenever I helped him make the base for the Shisa. So I used to think, ‘Allowance is something that you can’t get unless you make Shisa (chuckles)’. I thought everybody made Shisa to get allowance...”
When asked about the unique and lovable expressions on the Shisa that he makes, he replied that he was inspired by the words of the late Joka Shima, a leading figure in the world of Shisa making.
“People say that Shisa works to cast away evil, but they’re really not simply there to scare away bad spirits, but they’re actually gods who cleanse evil. If a demon were to come to Okinawa from somewhere far away, and our Shisa repels it away, then the demon would go to other parts of Japan or to the big continents. That doesn’t solve the problem. The Shisa cleanses the tainted spirits of the demons, makes them good, and they live happily ever after with us in Okinawa. Okinawa’s Shisa have the power to cleanse and purify. That’s why their facial expressions cannot be intimidating. They are powerful but underneath it all, they must have Chimugukuru (great care and warmth towards others).” These words from Shima-san shook and inspired Mitsuo-san.
In creating his work, he aims to make Shisa that even those who are not interested in traditional crafts will take notice. A kind of Shisa that “just having it around will bring good luck”. It’s very common to see Shisa placed on the gates and entryways to homes and buildings, but Mitsuo-san thought, “Why not make small Shisa that can fit on the palm of your hand or sit on top of a computer?” And this is how the Waraba (child) Shisa was born.
Since then, Mitsuo-san has been making various types of “Shisa that are like talismans which give people energy just by looking at them”. One of the popular series is the Shisa chopstick rest that brings good luck, which are available at the arts and crafts shop, Dear Okinawa, located within Naha Airport.
Many of the Shisa available at MITSUO Seasir Museum are made with Okinawa’s coral, Kawara roof tiles, and water drawn from sacred Utaki sites. By using water shared from very important sites, Mitsuo-san says it makes him really aware of the care that goes into creating each piece. “The Shisa that I enjoy making will surely deliver this energy to whoever this Shisa goes to,” he says.
“My dreams is to create a giant Shisa sphynx in the northern region of Okinawa Island. I want to make a Shisa sphynx in Okinawa just like the sphynx in Egypt (because they say the origin of Shisa is the Egyptian sphynx). It may not be possible in my lifetime, so we can work it out, Gaudi style. It can take decades or even centuries. You know how people flock to see the Sagrada Familia from all over the world, just to see it being built, right? So just like that, it would be great if people came to Okinawa to see it being built. And like the Ise Shrine and the Kumano Sanzan (the three Grand Shrines), people would repeatedly visit…That’s my dream, to create something that big,” says Mitsuo-san.
People from around the world gathering in Okinawa to be blessed with good luck. I’m beginning to think, it may not be such a farfetched dream after all.
MITSUO Shisa Art Museum
Address: 2-1-3 Makishi, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 10:00 to 22:00
Also Available at:
Address: 2F Connecting Terminal at Naha Airport, 150 Kagamizu, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 7:00 to 20:30
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Sachiko Tachi