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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Onigawara: The Gargoyles of Japan

I am a big fan of the kind of gargoyles that you get on old churches, cathedrals and medieval architecture in general. As far as I’m aware, gargoyles are generally a typically European thing – maybe with some appearing in American and Canadian architecture (but they probably got it from Britain and France anyway!). But when I visited Japan, in April, I discovered that they have something very similar within their traditional architecture.

“Onigawara, literally ‘goblin tile’, are decorative roof tiles typically placed at the ends of the main ridge on temple structures, shrines, and residences. […] The term is also used for decorative roof tiles in the shape of flowers or animals. The goblin-faced Onigawara is one of many decorative elements found in Japanese religious architecture. Other examples include the magical shishi (lion dog), the elephant-like Baku creature (thought to devour nightmares) and the dragon. […] Today Onigawara are found most frequently on temple structures.”Onigawara



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