Tell Me about “Shachihoko” at Castles in Japan

Mar 29, 2018


 

Do you love castles? If you’re traveling around in Japan, you can see the Japanese castles everywhere and you can feel the ancient Japanese culture.
If you’re a castle lover and always taking pictures of castles everywhere in Japan, have you ever noticed that there are mythical sea creatures on the roof top of the castles?

If you look at the creatures carefully, you can see that the mythical sea creatures are bending backward on the roof top of castles on both side of the corners. Why are there these kinds of creatures and what do they stand for? Are there any special meanings?

This article will show you the reason and the backgrounds of why Japanese people created these mythical sea creatures for the castles in Japan.
By the end of reading this article, you will find out that “Everything happens for a reason”

 

1. What do People Call these Creatures in Japanese?

 

 

The unknown creatures standing on the roof top of the castles in Japan, are called “Shachihoko” in Japanese. It stands for as mythical fish with a lion like head.

They have very interesting shapes such as follows:

・Shachihoko face and head:Looks like a dragon or tiger
・Shachihoko body:Looks like a fish

Sounds like a fish with human face, right? If we write Shachihoko in Japanese by Kanji (Chinese characters), it’s written as “鯱” and it’s the connection of Kanji by fish and the tiger. They’re the imaginable creatures that Japanese people  created. So why did Japanese people make these creatures?

 

 

2. What’s the Role of Shachihoko at Japanese Castles?

 

 

Frankly speaking, Shachihoko’s task is as same as firemen. Japanese people created Shachihoko to protect the castles from the fire and it is related to water.
People say if there is fire on the castles, the Shachihoko will spit water from its mouth and try to put out the fire.
It’s exactly the same way just as the firemen put out  fire using the fire hose. In a realistic way, it means people believed Shachihoko would make it rain to put out the fire.

There are other creatures having the same role as Shachihoko such as the following:

・Roofing tiles
・Ornamental ridge-end tiles

The one trivia you should know about Shachihoko is that Nobunaga Oda who was the warring lord in Owari province started to use Shachihoko in Japan on his castle called Azuchi castle. He was the very first person to use Shachihoko in Japan.

 

 

3. Gorgeous Shachihoko Exists at Nagoya Castle

 

 

You can find Shachihoko at every castle in Japan but if you want to see the gorgeous Shachihoko, definitely you should go and see Nagoya castle in Nagoya.
Ieyasu Tokugawa who was the first shogun of Edo Period made Nagoya castle in the year of 1612. This castle is one of the world heritage in Japan and very famous castle that many tourists visit every year in order to see.

This castle has remarkably gorgeous Shachihoko compared from other castles. Let’s see what kind of specials Nagoya castle has .

 

1. Nagoya castle has much of pure gold for Shachihoko

 

 

Generally, Shachihoko is made by ceramic materials and coated with gold leaf. However, Shachihoko at Nagoya castle is different. In Nagoya Shachihoko is made of wood and coated with real gold plates. It’s amazing that the gold used was more than 215kg. Compared to the Kinkaku temple which is one of the world heritage in Japan, it’s about 20kg of gold used for this temple. 215kg of gold cost about 5 billion yen and you can see how gorgeous it was to create that Shachihoko at that time.

Why Shachihoko at Nagoya castle used so much pure gold? It was all about Ieyasu Tokugawa and he wanted to show off his power by using gold Shachihoko to let other people see he had more financial power and was richer than  other people.

There were strict castle construction rules at that time and making gold Shachihoko and put on the roof top of the castles was not so easy that everybody could have done.

 

2. Information about married couples of Shachihoko

 

 

Have you ever wondered how big is the size of Shachihoko? There are always 2 married couple of Shachihoko standing on the roof top of Nagoya castle and here are more details about them as follows:

 

・Husband Shachihoko stands on North side and wife Shachihoko stands on South side.
・Husband Shachihoko is 2.621m high and wife Shachihoko is 2.579m high.
・Husband Shachihoko weight is 1.272kg and wife Shachihoko weight is 1.215kg.
・The type of gold are used 18-karat gold for both husband and wife Shachihoko.
・Husband Shachihoko weighs 112 pieces of scales and wife Shachihoko weighs 126 pieces of scales.
・The husband Shachihoko weighs 44.69kg of gold and wife Shachihoko weighs gold 43.39kg of gold.

 

People say that they can see these gorgeous Shachihoko couples even from a distance for about 4-5km. If you have chance and go to see the Nagoya castle, try to observe them from a distance and check by yourselves.

 

 

 

 

Do you now see that the mysterious creatures standing on the roof top of castles means a lot to protect Japanese castles? It’s going to be more interesting if you know about Shachihoko when you look around the castles in Japan. It might be little difficult to see clearly looking up from the ground, but you can see couple Shachihoko standing with great pride.

Isn’t it really an interesting idea to make Shachihoko to protect the castles in Japan?

 

Not the “Where’s Wally?” but “Where’s Shachihoko?” in Japan.

YAE
Japan

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