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Visit Tsuboya Pottery District, the home of Okinawa's pottery makers. Learn about the history of this district and the significance ...
of the Shisa Dog which is its most popular item.
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After you navigate the alleys of Heiwa-dori, you might stumble upon the Tsuboya Pottery District. Tsuboya has been the center of Okinawan pottery since 1682 when a royal decree combined three pottery districts into one. As with many Okinawan items, tsuboya-yaki styled pottery was greatly influenced by China, who began importing pottery to Okinawa in the 12th century. When you walk down the main street called Yachimun-dori, you pass many small shops selling beautiful pottery in the island’s two main styles, Joyachi which is glazed and Arayachi which is unglazed. Today the old style kilns aren’t really used in Naha. The craftsmen still create pottery in non-polluting electric kilns. Browsing through the shops, you find many teapots, cups, sake flasks, and etcetera. But more than anything else, there are shisa lots of shisa. They come in many different sizes, colors and poses and they fill many, many shelves in Tsuboya. I blew these off as tourist trinkets before I had a chance to tour the island. But after seeing them all over Okinawa, I began to realize that they were an important part of the culture. It would be nearly impossible to go a day in Okinawa without seeing this traditional Ryukyuan decoration. Shisa are the guardians of Okinawa. They are placed outside of homes and businesses to ward off evil spirits. Sometimes there is a single shisa placed on the roof to protect its inhabitants and other times there are two shisas guarding the main gate or entry. When there are two of them, one has its mouth open to scare off evil spirits and one has its mouth closed to keep in the good spirits. The shisa is a lion’s head with a dog’s body and was influenced by the imperial guardian lions that are popular in China. The mood of these icons can vary dramatically from stoic to mean to colorful and silly. Shisa statues can be found everywhere on the island. At parks, on bridges, post offices, anywhere you can imagine. However, you get to see them come to life at many Okinawan festivities. Shisa are even found at our next stop Shuri castle. Stay tuned because we’ll be heading to several of Okinawa’s world heritage site in future episodes., don’t forge to check out my website, straycompass.com, a travel adventure website for more videos about Okinawa and beyond and if you’re watching this on another video sharing website, don’t forget to subscribe to my videos.