Lion Dogs on Okinawa
"Shi-Shi" lion dogs -- or "Shisa" -- can often be seen standing guard on the roofs or entrances of homes, shops and other areas in need of a little protection or good luck.
Legend has it that the Shi-Shi came to the Okinawa region many years ago as a present for a Ryukyuan King. The Shi-Shi then became famous for protecting the villagers of Madanbashi from a terrible dragon who lurked in Naha port bay. According to the legend, when the king had the Shi-Shi confront the dragon, the Shi-Shi roared like a lion -- causing a huge rock to fall from the sky onto the dragon, thus turning the dragon into present-day Ganna-mui island.
Shisa are connected with the Shinto religion. They were originally used as guardians to entrances of residence, shrines, and used singularly on rooftops. One type of the creature is sometimes seen poised with a golden sphere under one paw -- symbolizing a concentration of goodness, wealth, and bountiful crops.