Monday, April 9, 2012

Shachihoko or shachi are mythical orca-like creatures found on the top of the roofs of Japanese castles, temple gates or samurai houses during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Shachi at Nagoya Castle, Aichi Prefecture

Shachi were believed to protect against fire and were carved in wood and often coated in gold when placed on the tops of castles. Shachi were also ceramic or cast in bronze or copper and as well as their fire-prevention duties acted as ornate roof decorations and symbols of power and wealth.

Fearsome shachi at Nagoya Castle

Shachi usually come in male and female pairs and the creatures have a fearsome tiger-like head and a carp-like fish body. It is thought shachi were originally derived from Hindu sea monsters and came to Japan via China along with Buddhism.

Shachi at Kiyosu Castle in Aichi

The largest castle Shachi in Japan were at Matsue Castle in Shimane at over 2m in length. The shachi has become a symbol of Nagoya and the orca is used in the logo of the local J-League soccer team Nagoya Grampus. Shachi is also the name of a Japanese rock band.

A pair of Shachihoko
Ceramic Shachi at Kiyosu Castle Museum


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