If you visit Naha, or just about anywhere on Okinawa, you’re bound to see small statues of guardian lions. These lions are called Shisa and are thought to have originated in China. Oftentimes Shinsa come in pairs and you can tell which one is male and which one is female by the statue’s mouth. Male lions have their mouths open to scare away bad spirits while female lions have their mouths closed to keep good spirits in. It’s very common to see a pair of Shisa statues on the gateway leading to a building, or on roofs, and sometimes you’ll see a pair of baby Shisa accompanying their parents.
Most of the lions around Okinawa are small but near the Makishi monorail stations in Naha I saw what is apparently the biggest one on the island. This Shisa was 3.4 meters (11.15 feet) tall and was completed in 2011 after five months of sculpting.