Okinawa Shisa Lion-Dogs, and a bit about fierce determination

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They say that the day after the Typhoon, is always eerily quiet….
And indeed this morning there was no wind and no rain in sight.
The Typhoon passed through Okinawa, with minimal impact.

In fact, the sky this morning had a soft blue hue, but the lovely weather only lasted a few hours….it started to rain and did not stop storming the whole day.

But while it was sunny, Kenny and Komaki set up a lovely breakfast table for us on the patio of our room.

Komaki made a breakfast for us that was a visual feast, as well as a delight for the taste buds.
We each got a tray with six skillfully prepared local specialties.
The food was so good, that I could not stop oohing and ahhaying…

After breakfast, we went for a run around the area.
The Maeda Cape in which we are staying, is located in the Onna region of Okinawa, on the shores of the western coast of the island, facing the Eastern China Sea.

It is a green area, filled with tropical forests, sugar cane fields, long stretches of black coral reefs and stunning beaches.
It also offers some of the best diving in Okinawa.

I was not up for a dive, because the weather forecast was calling for thunderstorms and the ocean is not yet warm enough for my taste…. I like diving in warm tropical oceans, and I get too cold otherwise.

Our morning run was a first for me.
I am not what you would call the “running type.”
I usually opt for swimming, diving, skiing, cycling, yoga and even roller blading, but when it comes to running, I usually prefer long and leisurely walks instead.

Jules on the other hand, LOVES running.
So this morning I put on my sneakers and we went for a run.
It was MUCH more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

The running path we chose meandered through fields of sugar canes, and occasionally we could see patches of the beautiful ocean.

Later in the day, we went for a long stroll to explore the Maeda Cape area.
Our path took us along an impressive graveyard, filled with some large marble communal family shrines.
The ashes of generations of the family, were put into those communal shrines.

We took a narrow walking path into a tropical forest that looked like an amazing tropical botanical gardens.
Our walk became an exploration of the local fauna and flora.
We walked for hours, admiring the flowers, tropical plants, huge spiders and many colorful butterflies.

The weather turned very stormy again, and we were the only ones walking on this beautiful path, yet we were soaked to the bones….. our clothes were dripping wet as if we went swimming with all of our clothing on.
It was not the cold rain that you get during the winter, but a warm tropical rain.

We ended our walk on the beach.
It had some large coral rock formations that took my breath away.

Kenny, the owner of our guest house, lent us some reef rubber shoes, and we spent a long time walking around the tide pools, admiring the many tiny creatures that lived in those shallow coral tide pools.

We spotted some neon blue fish, some hairy crabs, some purple anemone, many hermit crabs, large black slugs, hairy four armed starfish and many more beautiful creatures.

It was nice to slow down and to take the time to spot tiny and wonderful creatures that otherwise we would have missed.

Speaking about amazing creatures…. In Okinawa you can see everywhere sculptors and figurines of fierce looking mythical creatures that are a cross between a guard dog and a lion.
They are called “Shisa,” and they are believed to be spiritual guardians.

The Shisa sculptures are places at the edges of clay roofs, one on each corner.
Traditionally, the right one has an open roaring mouth, while the left side one has a closed mouth.

Some say that the Shisa with the open mouth, is aiming to ward off evil intentions and bad energies, while the ones with the closed mouths, are keeping good energies inside.

These lion-dogs, are also placed at the sides of entrance gates, above or beside entrance doors, on window seals and they are sold in every tourist shop around the island.

These Dogs-Lions are symbols of protection and fearlessness, and they are always portrayed with a fierce look and pose, which symbolizes sincere determination and powerful intensity.

In Zen Buddhism, fierce determination, self discipline and vigilance, are true virtues and are considered necessary to walking the path of truth, and overcoming the ego to realize your true divine spiritual nature.

It is understood that it is your ego which keeps you living in a world of dreams…. Believing that your body is real and that the reality of finite mortal bodies and separate forms are all there is….,
Fierce determination and vigilance, are considered valuable tools to achieving self realization and enlightenment.

If you think about it… Even in the world of dreams which we call “reality,” and in which we think we live, determination is required to get things done… To reach our personal goals… To dream and enjoy a better and more deliberate life….

I will wish you a great day and finish with some related thoughts about determination and fearlessness, from old Zen Buddhist texts:

“A man of determination will unflinchingly push his way straight forward,
Regardless of all dangers,
Then even the eight-armed Nata cannot hinder him,
Even the four sevens of the West,
And the two threes of the East,
Would beg for their lives.

If one has no determination,
Then it will be like catching a glimpse of a horse galloping past the window,
In the twinkling of an eye it will be gone.”


“The lion-roars of the Truth of fearlessness.
Hearing this,
The timid animals’ brains are torn to pieces,
Even the scented elephant runs wild, forgetting its native dignity.
It is the heavenly dragon alone that feels elated with joy,
Calmly listening to the lion-roaring of the Truth.”


“I crossed seas and rivers,
Climbed mountains,
And crossed flooding rivers and streams,
In order to interview the masters,
To inquire after Truth,
To delve into the secrets of Zen
And ever since I was enabled to recognize the path of Truth,
I know that birth-and-death is not the thing I have to be concerned with….”


“The Great Way is gate-less,
It can be approached in a thousand ways.
Once past this checkpoint
You stride through the Universe….”


(Above are translations from Mumonkan – “The Gate-less Gate.”
From Jõshû’s “Mu”, and from YOKA DAISHI’S- “SONG OF ENLIGHTENMENT”)

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