This is a pair of my favorite Shisa/シーサー. So cute, huh? I got it from my sister who visited Okinawa. The Shisa is a kind of Chinese guardian lion but it’s not exactly the same as one in the main island of Japan. Okinawa is the island in the most southern part of Japan. That is to say, it is very close to Taiwan. So, Okinawa has the distinctive culture, which I would say the mixture of main Japan and Taiwan. Even to me, Okinawan culture is very different and exotic. The Chinese guardian lions of the main island of Japan are called “komainu” (In a precise sense, they’re supposed to be called as “Shishi and Komainu, but people often calls them just Komainu.) Okinawan people put shisa on their home gate or on the roof to prevent the vicious thing from coming into. However, I’ve never seen people put komainu in their home in the main island of Japan. You can see them only at the gate of a shrine.
You see one lion opens his mouth, and the other is close. I googled and found that these type of the chinese guardian lions can be seen only in Japan. I mean in China, the place of their root, both of these two lions open their mouthes. I don’t know much about why komainu of Japan open and close their mouths, but they seem to be influenced by a pair of Nio statues that is also standing at the gate of shire or temple.
The lion/the Nio opens his mouth like saying “Ah/あ” and the other one close his mouth like “Hum/うん”. Why do they say “Ah” and “Hum”?
In the Wikipedia of Japan, unfortunately they don’t have the English page of this topic though, they say that “Ah” is the first sound you make when you open your mouth, and “Hum” is the last sound when you shut your mouth. So, it represents the “whole world” or “from the beginning to the end”. The ultimate understanding of this philosophy means “the universe”. They must be one pair. Because between “Ah” and “Hum”, all of the things are included and completed. Oh, it’s deep…Komainu are too common to me, so I don’t care about them when I’m passing through. Even if I think about “Ah-Hum” philosophy in front of them, I could never appreciate it fully yet! It’s very very difficult!