Kitanakagusuku Shisa Neighborhood

In the neighborhood that surrounds Nakagusuku-jo (one of the UNESCO gusuku heritage sites), the residents are known for taking great care to beautify the area. The flowers are always well tended after, while shisa シーサー and other pottery/sculptures can be found dotted all over. Now, to be honest, some of these sculptures border on the bizarre (disembodied feet, for example), and it remains a mystery to me why they exist but it makes for an interesting experience. I won’t ruin the surprises in store for you if you decide to wander around this area, so I only put up a sampling of pictures below. There is much more fun to discover in this neighborhood.

While you walk through the area, there are a handful of small historical sites, some sacred wells and small parks, and most predominantly Nakamura House (a preserved old Ryukyu-style house that displays many features of traditional architecture).

We had an enjoyable afternoon just strolling around the area, just spotting all the various styles of shisa displayed and contemplating some of the designs of some of the sculptures. If you have time after visiting Nakagusuku-jo, I recommend enjoying a walk around the neighborhood, as well as a stop at Nakamura House (you get free tea and snack with your admission). Gosamaru’s tomb and a scenic lookout point are also in the area (read more here).



Shisa: シーサー

Shisa (or shiisaa) シーサー are the guardian lion dogs in Okinawa and Ryukyu culture. They always come in pairs (a male with open mouth on the right, a female with closed mouth on the left); the open mouth wards off evil spirits, and the closed mouth keeps good spirits in. A second mythology is reversed, saying that the male has his mouth closed to keep evil out of the home and the open-mouthed female is to share goodness with others.

There are many, many styles that you will see around… and they are everywhere, from rooftops, gates, schools, houses, stores.

A famous shisa statue in Okinawa is located in Yaese (south), the Tomori Stone Shisa. It has significance in Okinawa history, and has even survived with visible scarring the Battle of Okinawa.


April 3rd is Shisa-no-hi シーサーの日, Shisa day. “Shi” is 4 in Japanese, and “san” is 3, together sounds similar to the word “shisa.” Tsuboya yachimun (pottery) district in Naha has some small events on this day.

I have an assortment of pictures of shisa from around the islands:

Shisa シーサー

Address for Tomori Stone Shisa: