When you go to a shrine, you will see a pair of stone-curved animals at the front approach. They are called “Komainu”. They are of course imaginary creature but they look like dogs.

Normally one on the right has no corn and opens the mouth. The other one on the left has a corn and shuts the mouth.

There are a variety of different figures in Komainus. Unlike Buddhism temples, there are no statures or sculptures to see in shrines. So it may be interesting to pay attention on Komainus when you visit a Shinto shrine.

The origin seems to be lions, which is the symbol of strength, back to the Ancient Orient time (like Sphinxes?). The idea came to Japan through India and China like other important things were introduced in old times. It came to Japan in late Heian period (the 12th century).

Both of the right one and the left one are the imaginary beasts.

However, while the right one was made up based on lions as written above, the left one was made up based on dogs after it was introduced in Japan. So, the right is lion, the left is dog (Some of the shrine have foxes instead of lions and dogs, though).

Wouldn’t it be a pretty trivia to sound off to your travel mates


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