Okinawa Tourism Information:April3is“ShisaDay”

April 3 is “Shisa Day”

post : 2015.04.06 18:00

Speaking of Okinawa, you will easily remember “shisa”!!  April 3 is “Shisa Day,” so I would like to talk about shisa, which is very close to local communities in Okinawa.

Shisa is originally from shishi to ward off evil spirits, introduced from China, which had a close relationship with Ryukyu Kingdom during the Ryukyu Kingdom period.  Shisa were placed on castle gates, and entrances of temples, shrines, Tamaudun (royal mausoleum), communities, etc..  At the end of 19C, when ordinary people were allowed to use red-tiles for their roofs, the custom of placing shisa on the rooftop to ward off evil spirits started to spread among the public, they say.

Now, shisa can be a symbol of Okinawa.  When you walk around the street, you often find shisa on the rooftops and the gateposts.  For “uchinanchu (Okinawan people), shisa is naturally blended into everyday scenery.

A winsome stone shisa

In my community, shisa is still placed at the entrance of the community.

Naminouegu Shrine is located in Wakasa, Naha City in the southern part of Okinawa.  A pair of dynamic shisa at both sides of the worship hall welcome you.  A red shrine with shisa is a unique landscape that you cannot find in mainland Japan.  As you can glimpse the history of Okinawa, I would recommend you visit this place for sightseeing.

It is said that shisa are placed in pairs: the open-mouthed shisa (-a gyo) on the left is female while the closed-mouth shisa (-un gyo) on the right is female.
 (It is also said that the syllables a-un, represent the beginning and end of life, everything in this world.) 

Every shisa is different in facial expression and materials according to shisa artists, so please have fun looking for your favorite shisa.

I love a little bit ugly but cute shisa using plaster and shells from Kobo Amamu.

It is too popular, so you will have to wait for two years and a half to place an order for the shisa.  Please visit Kobo Amamu to meet cute shisa!

If you look up in the sky, you might be able to meet shisa full of humor.

On “Shisa Day,” April 3, many shisa events were held in Okinawa.  I went to observe the event full of eisa-related programs held on Yachimun-dori Street in Tsuboya, which is famous for yachimun (an Okinawan word meaning pottery). 

Wow, this is so huge!  I would recommend you take this for one of the best pictures from sightseeing.

In Tsuboya, you can see “Tsuboya Ufu Shisa,” which is a 3.62m-tall giant shisa baked by Tsuboya-ware.  It is so huge that you can find it easily!

This is what I am looking for!  Demonstration of making shisa!  A traditional craft artist, Mr. Noboru Kobashikawa showed his technique as a master, who has been making shisa for 45 years.  I was born and raised in Okinawa, but it was my first time I have seen an artist making shisa.  It was really impressive!

The event on Yachimun-dori was held for three days starting April 3 to April 5 in 2015.

As there were the best shisa exhibits at each shop in addition to shisa making experience, you can get a chance to feel shisa close to you.  Shisa dolls made by members of Yachimun Street Association for the first time are for sale, too.

Why don’t you go out on the weekend to look for your favorite shisa?

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer 0173 (Reina Chinen)

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