One of Ryukyu's famous toys, the 'hariko', known as the bringer of good luck, is sold at the toy bazaar held on the day of the Yukkanuhi (the fourth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar).
The skills for crafting the hariko were brought here from Japan after the 17th century. The original target for the hariko were children from upper-class families. By the Meiji period, though, the hariko had become a popular and affordable toy for the average child.
Okinawan hariko were influenced by the Ryukyu Kingdom, continental China, and by their own inland cultures. These multiple influences fused in the distinctive shapes and rich colors of the hariko.
Other Ryukyu toys, such as pinwheels made from the leaf of Adan, puppets made from the nut of the Sago palm, and butterfly-shaped kites also show the same subtle charm combined with various influences.
Over the times, plastic and tin toys replaced the popularity of the Ryukyu toys, though each toy still shows expression and tender warmness and is appreciated by many people
The Shishi-mai dance, which was imported from China, spread throughout Japan and has many variations depending on the area.
The shishi (lion) dances to lively music. It is said that there are two kinds of shishi-mai dance: one, unlike its Chinese counterpart, is the 'furyu' shishi-mai, which can only house a single performer instead of a line of men.
In Japan, there are many styles of shishi-mai, with no two styles resembling each other, including several different versions of the 'furyu' and 'kagura' dances.
The head of most shishi is made of wood, but some are made of rice paper or styrofoam. The old Chinese version of the dance originated long ago, while the current version originated in the Qing dynasty to become a competitive sport.
Shishi-mai is performed during every kind of event, including Chinese New Year and the opening ceremonies of new shops. Shishi-mai teams exist in every town.
Shishi-Iwa is a lion-like rock, located inside the Yoshino-Kumano National Park near Kumano city in Mie Prefecture.
Shishi-Iwa is a mass of rock, 25m high and 210m round, and is also known as the Japanese Sphinx. It was formed by the upheaval and erosion of the surrounding rock and gets its name from the fact that it looks like a lion roaring at the Pacific Ocean. There seems to be no end to the tourists visiting for the beautiful scenery, which continues from Oniga Castle.
Shishi-Iwa is also highly regarded for its academic value. Along with the Shinsen cave, it is considered as one of the guardian dogs of Oma Shrine, which lies upstream of the nearby Idogawa River.
Shishi-Iwa is illuminated on New Year's Eve and is one of the events relating to the '108 fireworks of the watch-night', creating a fantastic atmosphere. Shishi-Iwa is a national scenic monument made by nature, and stimulates the viewer's imagination.
Shisa is an ornament often seen in Okinawa. They are made in the shape of a legendary animal and are usually placed on gates and roofs, or on village towers to ward off evil spirits that may harm the people, their families and the village. Shisa are also believed to bring good luck.
Along with the sphinx and the 'komainu', shisa evolved from the lion figure in ancient east Asian culture. 'Shisa' means 'lion' in the Okinawan dialect of the Ryukyuan language.
As an ornament, shisa were originally placed alone. After Buddhist influence, it became popular to place them in pairs. Initially, they were placed at the gates of temples, shrines, the graves of nobility, and at the entrance gates to villages. After the Meiji period, ordinary people were allowed to decorate their roofs with tiles, and shisa began to be placed on roofs as well.
Shisa are generally made from stone, ceramic (either glazed or fired) or plaster.