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Shisa Dog Statues


knd643
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Not to sure if this the right section to ask this question, if there's a more appropriate area mods please move the topic. Has anyone ever found any old Shisa Dog statues? Possibly from a Veteran that brought it back to their home country or just from finding it while you where in Japan or online? Kind of obscure question but ever since I went to Okinawa Shisa Dogs have fascinated me, picked up a set myself while I was there. Thanks.

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Fortunes Of War

knd643-

      This is probably as good a place to ask the question as any.  I have to believe that these were brought home from some/a few of the islands or places that G.I.'s visited while overseas during or post-war.  I had to look them up because I am more familiar with their other name, "Foo Dogs".  These came in a variety of sizes and took different forms besides dogs.  Foo or Shisa dogs were used primarily as protectors of the temples and can normally be seen in pairs; one normally has its mouth open, while the other has its mouth closed.  The open and shut mouth represents the making of the "Om" sound, which is the mantra commonly heard in Buddhist meditation.  These protectors take on the forms of other creatures including: dogs, tigers, fox, etc.  They are out there for purchase in different sizes and can be quite expensive, depending upon the decoration or carving.  I used to see them on eBay pretty frequently.  They are now made in places like China, Indochina, Mexico and elsewhere for mass export.  Many are said to be "antique" but my guess is that some were probably recently carved by a guy out in front of his house or in the garage.  Nevertheless, they look nice and make for an interesting decoration or display.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I was stationed in Okinawa I saw them everywhere on the island. People had them in front of their doorways at their homes, on walls outside of their homes, and in front of what I assumed were official buildings. I'm assuming they had them cemented to stay in place during typhoons and so they wouldn't fall off of the walls(primarily from cats bumping into them lol). I never knew that's what the opened and closed mouth stood for, very interesting. There is a famous shisa lion statue that has been there since before WW2 and there are photos of US GI's taking cover behind it and it's still there to this day. I didn't know about it when I was there so I sadly was never able to see it. I picked up a set of shisa dogs while I was there that they sold at the PX. I never really saw any for sale outside of bases but I'm sure I was looking in the wrong places. The pics attached is the shisa dogs I got when I was there and the pic of the GI's taking cover behind the statue during the war and a pic of it today.

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Fortunes Of War

knd643-

     I really like your shisa dog statues.  Thank you too for including the photos of the one on Okinawa.  It's always great to see the vintage images and then compare those with how things appear today. 

     Here is a good luck flag in my collection that has two tigers; one with its mouth open and the other with mouth closed.  This flag was recently featured in my book on tiger good luck flags.  Here is the caption as it appears in the book:

 

"The most prominent feature of this hinomaru yosegaki are the 2 hand painted tigers that are displayed near the 9 o'clock position, and between the 12-1 o'clock positions.  Rendered in profile, both tiger images are outlined in black ink with white accents as well as red, orange, and brown paint.  The fact that 2 tigers were painted on this good luck flag makes it quite colorful, and unusual.

 

     Beginning in the Edo period (1603-1868), statues of tigers as well as dragons, wild boar, foxes, and other animals were sometimes displayed in pairs, acting as temple or shrine guardians.  Functioning much like Chinese protective lions, they are known collectively as komainu; their purpose is to keep away evil spirits, and calamity.  It is said that the open-mouthed animal is actually forming the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet “a”, while the animal with its mouth closed is pronouncing the last letter, “um”.  Together, they say, “aum” which, is probably the most familiar, and the greatest of all mantras." 

 

The mantra is also spelled "Om".  As you pointed out, similar statues are used to protect homes, businesses and the like. 

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That's a very beautiful and unique flag, thanks for posting it. Also thanks for the info regarding their history. I didn't realize you were the author of that book. I've been planning on purchasing a copy but haven't gotten around to it yet.

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Fortunes Of War

knd643-

     Thank you for your kind comments with regard to the flag.  I think there are 60-plus others displayed among the pages.  

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