Shrine Guardians 2: Further Fieldwork

Continuing from yesterday’s post, today I have many more pictures of lion dogs from shrines further afield than Kitakyushu. First we’ll visit Dazaifu in central Fukuoka, then we’ll go to Miyazaki on Kyushu’s southwest coast, and we’ll finish our expedition on an island in Hiroshima. Because there are so many pictures, you won’t have to do much reading.

As this is the second in a four-part series, you’ll probably want to read Part 1 if you haven’t already done so.

Dazaifu, just south of Fukuoka City, is the ancient capital of Kyushu. It takes about an hour-and-a-half by train to get there from Kitakyushu. Dazaifu is famous for being the home of Tenmangu Shrine, where Sugawara Michizane is enshrined as the god of education. This is the same Sugawara Michizane to whom Sugawara Jinja in our neighbourhood is dedicated. Dazaifu Tenmangu is Japan’s main shrine dedicated to education, and is a major pilgrimage destination for Japanese students.

Dazaifu is worthy of a couple of posts of its own. It’s a very beautiful place, especially in February when the plum trees are in blossom.

I have to say here that I don’t think that the eyes increase the ferocity of this creature, and that if I was an evil spirit encountering it, I’d be more worried about collapsing from laughter than dying of fear. The rest of the shrine accoutrements don’t look as goofy as this googly-eyed lion dog that’s just inside the shrine walls.

googly-eyed lion dog at Dazaifu Tenmangu

Here’s a more serious looking guardian. He sits between the purification fountain and the front gate into the shrine courtyard. It looks like someone’s filed off his canines. Or else he’s one of the exotic breeds of lion dog that has molars and nothing but.

serious-looking lion dog outside the front courtyard gate to Dazaifu Tenmangu

Going south, first we’ll visit a shrine in central Miyazaki City. We went to Miyazaki for summer vacation in 2004. I can’t remember the name of the shrine, but it was in a big park that had a whole bunch of ancient buildings, and was near the museum of natural history. The statues look almost Sumerian.

Sumerian-looking lion dog at a shrine in Miyazaki City

This one has been gifted with an offering of beer.

Sumerian-looking lion dog, with beer, at a shrine in Miyazaki City

Going further south, we come to Aoshima, a resort town which used to be a one of the top three romantic holiday and honeymoon spots for Japanese couples. Recently its popularity has been eclipsed by destinations such as Hokkaido and Okinawa. The town has a mix of brand-new and abandoned hotels, and has very few foreign visitors. But that’s a post of its own. Suffice to say that Lia didn’t appreciate the camera-phone paparazzi every time she walked down the beach in her bathing suit.

Stylistically, these two examples of lion dog figures are quite unusual. They look the way I imagine someone would sculpt one if they’d never seen one before, and all they had to work from was a semi-literate pirate’s drunken field notes.

odd-looking lion dog at Aoshima Shrine, Miyazaki-ken

Especially this one.

odder-looking lion dog at Aoshima Shrine, Miyazaki Prefecture

I can’t remember where exactly I took this one, but I think it’s at or near Udo Jinja, an ancient shrine on the southwest coast of Kyushu. Udo Jinja is one of the oldest shrines in Kyushu. At the time we visited, we had narrowly missed a typhoon. It crossed Kyushu north of us, but there were extremely large waves everywhere. They were especially spectacular when they hit the rock formations next to the shrine. But that’s also another post.

lion dog with torii in the background, probably near Udo Jinja in Miyazaki Prefecture

Now it’s time to say goodbye to Kyushu. These next four photos are from Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima. This is the same shrine where you can see the big torii in the sea, which I wrote about briefly here.

This one is within the Itsukushima Shrine compound, looking directly out to sea.

bronze lion dog at Itsukushima Shrine, looking out to sea

Here’s one that looks like it’s been getting cosmetic surgery advice from Godzilla.

stone lion dog near the entrance to Itsukushima shrine

This one is across the path from the one in the previous photo. I took the two photos moments apart, but the statue below was in the shade while the one pictured above was catching the late afternoon sunlight.

stone lion dog in shade, near the entrance to Itsukushima shrine

This last one was on a high pedestal.

bronze lion dog on the path to Itsukushima shrine

That’s it for the pictures. Coming tomorrow: Shrine Guardians 3: The Legend. The title makes it sound like a Hollywood B-Movie. You’ll have to wait for the verdict on whether it reads like one. Meanwhile, enjoy Father’s Day. I wrote my Father’s Day post a week ago. If you plan to read it, I’ve been told that tissues are advised.