Okinawa Tourism Information:CuteStoneLionswithIndescribableFacialExpression

Cute Stone Lions with Indescribable Facial Expression

post : 2016.06.14 07:00

This is “Ishijishi,” a stone lion which made of stone in Okinawa. Ishijishi is one of the sculptures that are familiar with Okinawan people from back in the old days. Indescribable facial expression make them look cute, don’t you think?

Ishijishi were situated on the entrance of villages around the late-17th century during Ryukyu era, and Ishijishi are mainly made of stones. Since Ishijishi are considered as guardian gods of villages, they are called “Sonraku shishi (Village’s lion).”

Sonraku shishi is believed as the root of Shisa which are situated on rooftops and others.  Sonraku shishi was created to make a heartfelt wish to “prevent from disaster.” However, the persons who created them are unknown, and many of them were burnt during the war. Details on them are yet-to-be-defined. 

There is a person who creates Ishijishi in modern times. The person is a sculptor from “Studio de-ji” named Daichi Wakayama. Wakayama was born in Okinawa and raised in Aichi Prefecture. His mother is from Okinawa, so he valued the connection of Okinawa.

Wakayama moved to Okinawa when he entered Okinawa Prefectural University. He majored in Sculpture, and he focused on creating “something about Okinawa.” One day, he heard a story of Ishijishi from his senior at university named Morito Toyonaga, a papier-mache artist from “Toy Road Works.” Later, Wakayama went to Naha to see Ishijishi, and it shocked him to his bone.

Ishijishi was made of stones of Okinawa, became a part of Okinawan lifestyle, and spread among people. Wakayama was touched by Ishijishi, and he appreciated the existence of it.

“I feel that people create Ishijishi with their pure wish, and I also feel their temperature.”

So he started creating Ishijishi after that.

Katsuren travertine (R & L), and cobble (center)

Wakayama uses Ryukyu limestone which is formed from the activation of coral in Okinawa. He mainly uses stones such as cobble and Katsuren travertine. These stones are bit rough, but the texture actually feels good!

Sizes of Ishijishi are available from palm-size to 30cm / 12in. Small ones are cute, and large ones exert a strong presence. Sizes can be picked depending on the spots to decorate Ishijishi. 

I asked Wakayama how he creates Ishijishi. He answered;

“Stones belong to nature, and each of them are different. Each has individuality and characteristic. I engrave faces in stones like I am talking to stones. And then I determine the stones and lead them to Ishijishi.”

Each Ishijishi that Wakayama creates has great individuality. All of them are cute and their facial expression make people smile. Everybody might feel better when they look at these lovely Ishijishi. 

I do want to make a wish for Ishijishi to protect my home to show respect for the tradition of Okinawa. 


Studio de-jin
Address: 3-14-1 Akebono, Naha City
Tel: 098-887-7466


Okinawa CLIP photo writer Akari Matsumura