A Shisa is a mythical creature from Okinawan folklore, which is a part of the Ryukyuan mythology in Japan. The Shisa is often depicted as a lion-like creature with a fierce expression, sharp teeth, and a curled tail. It is commonly placed as a guardian at the entrance of homes, businesses, and other buildings to ward off evil spirits.

The Shisa is believed to have the ability to protect its owner from malevolent forces and bring good luck. There are usually two types of Shisa: male (with an open mouth to ward off evil spirits) and female (with a closed mouth to keep good spirits in). They are often crafted from stone, wood, or other materials and can vary in size from small statues to larger decorative elements.

Artistic rendering of a Shisa, standing guard at a Ryukyuan gate


Lion-Like Appearance: The Shisa often has a mane resembling that of a lion, this mane is sometimes depicted as wild and flowing.

Fierce Expression: The Shisa is known for its fierce and intimidating facial expression. This includes sharp teeth, wide eyes, and a bold posture.

Curling Tail: Many Shisa statues have a distinctive curled tail, which can vary in shape and style. The tail is often raised upward and can have a spiral or circular form.

Ears and Horns: Shisas may have pointed ears resembling those of dogs or mythical creatures. Additionally, some depictions include horns or decorative elements on the head.

Open or Closed Mouth: The male Shisa typically has an open mouth, as if roaring to ward off evil spirits, while the female has a closed mouth to keep in the good spirits.


One popular legend regarding the origin of the Shisa involves a Ming Dynasty envoy bringing a pair of Chinese guardian lions to Okinawa as a gift. Over time, these lion statues became associated with local beliefs in protection against evil spirits. The lion statues were modified to suit the artistic preferences and cultural context of the Okinawan people, eventually evolving into the Shisa as it is known today.

The Shisa, with its distinctive features and protective symbolism, became an integral part of Okinawan folklore and culture. It is commonly found in various forms, including statues, pottery, and other artistic representations, serving as a guardian charm believed to bring good fortune and safeguard against malevolent forces.

Shisa poised and alert, embodying protection and tradition


Warding off Evil Spirits: The primary role of the Shisa is to serve as a guardian against evil spirits and malevolent forces. Placing Shisa statues at the entrances of homes, businesses, and other buildings is thought to provide protection and prevent negative influences.

Bringing Good Luck: The Shisa is associated with good fortune and positive energy. It is believed to attract prosperity, happiness, and overall well-being to those who have the creature as a protective symbol.

Protecting the Household: By placing Shisa statues at the entrance of a dwelling, it is believed that the creature acts as a defender of the household. The Shisa is thought to ward off negative energy and keep the occupants safe.

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