Shisa: Tales of Stone Dog Guardians

Shisa, Shiisa or Shizi are an ordinary feature when one visit the island of Okinawa and southern prefecture of Japan. The creature looks like hybrid of pekingese dog, lion and cat.

Introduction and Origin

There are many stories which surround the origin of the introduction of Buddhism having been introduced to Japan from Korea in 552 CE. It was during Nara period (710-794), lion guardians was popularized in the country and are found in temples and shrines. These might have come from China and Korea.

Some of the original guard dogs are made of wood and originally placed indoor. It was only between 14th and 15th century that stone dogs are created for outdoor and the horn was gradually replace with the current version.

There are a variation of the guardian lions found in many other parts of Asia, including mainland Japan and Korea where they are called Komainu. Which are mostly found in Buddhist temples and shrines.

As more pottery kiln rose the popularity of shisa within the region. It was also the time that shisa sitting on a red tile roof of buildings or as guard dogs in entrance of one’s abode. Some buildings like schools, hospitals, enterprises, airports and even malls have shisa guarding their entrances.

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Shisha guardian dogs made from ceramic ( circa 1980’s)

Folktales and Legends

There are several folk tales which may have started from the Tomimori Village in the late 16th century near Kochinda Town in southern part of Okinawa.

Villagers of that area sought out Saiouzui, a Feng Shui master, to ask him why there were so many fires around the area. He believed they were because of the power of the nearby Mt. Yaese. Hence Shisa dogs were places facing the mountain to ward of the negative elements and fire.

Since placing shisa at the entrance to the village, there hasn’t been a single fire in the village.

Another popular tale originates in the 17th century surrounding the village of Madanbashi south of Naha the capital city.

A visiting Chinese envoy at the Shuri court gave the king of Ryukyu (now Okinawa) a necklace decorated with a figurine of a shisa-dog (locally called Iri-nu). The king found it as nice present and wore it underneath his clothes. This serves as a good luck charm and amulet.

shisa-3

Shisha dogs with bell

According to this legend, Madanbashi village were regularly attacked by a giant fire dragon.

A local priestesses (noro) recalled a dream. She inform the visiting king to stand on the beach with the Shisa figure held high towards the dragon. She gave this information to a young local boy, Chiga, who delivered the message to the king.

She gave this information to a young boy, Chiga, who delivered the message to the king. From there the king went to face the dragon and performed the actions as told by Chiga.

As the dragon was ready to attack, the priestess told the king to hold up the necklace to the monster. There rose a thundering roar and the Shisa came to life, three large boulders fell from the sky pinning the monster and crushing its tail.

Unable to move around, the creature eventually died and was later overgrown with foliage, trees and vegetation. It is later known as Gana-Mui forest near Naha- Ohashi bridge. People have erected large stone shisa to protect the place from evil spirits.

Since then, the inhabitants of Madanbashi continue to gather every year, on August 15th lunar calendar to offer prayers and offerings (mainly fruits , steam buns and foods) to protect the people of the village.

During the closing months of the second world war, Some shisa dogs found in the island were used by some local as shield against gunfire by the allied forces.

The guardian dogs as a talisman against evil spirits and good luck. These are an indispensable element in the lives of Okinawans.

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pair of shisa in different posture

Male and Female

There are many beliefs on the gender of these guardian dogs, Some believe that male shisa had a wide an open mouth to wards off evil spirits, and the one with a closed mouth, a female, keeps good spirits in.

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a pair of shisa dog -one close mouth and one with open mouth

Depending on who you ask, which one is which might differ. Some believe that the one with an open mouth is male and he is scaring the evil away, but others say that he has the mouth closed to keep evil out of the home. The female with an open mouth is sharing good luck with others, while the one with closed mouth keeps the luck inside the house.

Popular Culture

The popularity of these arouse after the end of the second world war, Shisa were popular souvenir items which range from small figurines, t-shirts, toys, clock, paper weights, bells, sharpener, terracotta pots among others.

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shisa figurine is a popular souvenir item from Okinawa

Shisa Collection

She started collecting the items 5 years ago, when her immediate relative gave her a pair of shisa figurine upon visit to the island. She then fell in love with these items and started buying them in Japanese thrift stores within Fairview or Lagro area.

The collector had over 3 dozen Shisa figurines in different sizes. Sometimes, shisa figurine would not come in pair and some items would have missing tails or broken head.

References:

Adopted from Legends of Okinawa by Chizue Sesoko

Arroyo, Kelly : Shisa dogs of Okinawa

Mariko Uehara Roland, Kijimuna and Shisa ( Bilingual ), October 21, 2011

Personal interview with a shisa collector

Okinawa Prefectural Government. Archived from the original on 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2010-08-09.

Shisa : Mythical creature of Okinawa

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Tales of Matryoshka Dolls

Tales of Matryoshka dolls started when i was a teenager, I have a distant aunt ( on the maternal side) who just collected a couple of sets of the famed Matryoshka dolls. It was part of a few items displayed at the second floor of apartment and commercial stall somewhere along Salazar street within Binondo district, Manila.

According to her , the dolls were bought sometime in the early 1980’s from a Russian who sold some Matryoshka dolls during a bazaar in Makati.

It was selling like pancakes since there were few items sold in the country during the early part of the Russian- Philippines diplomatic relations. Being a license jewelry appraiser and Chinese plaque maker was the key in meeting some foreign dignitaries or joining a bazaar.

It was late 2005, when i saw again the dolls at the display cabinet. I felt like those dolls are quite eerie since they were facing the sala set near her room, They were like those  voodoo dolls. They have large eyes!

She asked me if i have some friends or relatives who would love to buy the set including an old vintage cabinet made from narra ( a hardwood variety ) art deco era around 1940’s and a Fuk Luk Su figurine set . She badly needed the money , But i have no friends who would collect those nesting dolls , Fu Luk Su and even the narra cabinet could not be sold immediately.

Business is getting bad and eventually there were a lot of bad credits and paying off her debts is the priority. Her father ( technically i called him great grandfather ( tai kung kung  ) because he is over 90 years old ! was the original owner of the cabinet.

Eventually, great grandfather or tai kung kung died a year after and they were evicted by the association who owns the unit that they were renting since the 1940’s . They are not able to settle the rentals for more than a year. Most of the items were used as payment to settle some of her bad debts. This it was not enough, since outstanding debts runs into millions of pesos ! According to her story, there were 2 old time regular ” suki ” jeweler from the province who borrowed some jewelries ( in millions ) paid in half  , since the jewelries would be shown to her buyer. Eventually, the bank cheque issued bounced and jeweler could not be found.

It was the same story of a Cebu based fashion accessory owner who also owe her about Php 450,000 worth of real jewelries and only paid her in fraction , Mostly useless fashion accessories which was never sold.

Her health failed and she died last year.

History

  The Chinese crafted nesting boxes , gift boxes or surprise boxes that date back to the Song Dynasty, around 1000 AD or a little bit earlier sometime around 950 AD  These boxes were both functional and decorative. Sometime during the 1700s they applied this concept to a set of dolls and the first nesting doll was born.

Chinese nesting dolls are similar to the nesting dolls that are common today.  In the original Chinese sets the smallest doll held a single grain of rice normally or  prosperity or fruitful. There were a lot of meaning an symbolism behind the rice.

Due to trade relations between China and Japan. Some of the nesting boxes or surprise boxes were adopted by the Japanese and new dolls were created sometime around the 17th century .

The outer most doll was Fukurokuju the Japanese god of happiness and longevity. Daruma dolls originated in the city of Takasaki, around the mid- 1760s.  They are a hollow Papier-mâché doll and often have a wooden mold to create their shape.

How did it Come to Russia

Some historians and dolls collector would trace their roots around 1880s to 1890’s when Savva Mamontov discovered a set maybe from Japan.  Mamontov was a wealthy supporter of the arts and wanted to revive Russian folk art.   One of his artists, Sergei Maliutin created the first Russian set with the help of Vassily Zviozdochkin.

Eventually it became a fad and it became a popular gifts . Some Eastern European countries also adopted the nesting dolls and there are clubs and associations which collects and exhibits the dolls.

 

Collector Friend

A friend who will be celebrating her birthday next week ,collects different kind of dolls, one of her bucket list was a Matryoshka dolls. Her passion started when she was a teenager with some barbie dolls she acquired as a birthday present. Her collection quickly expanded into dolls from other countries.

I saw 2 sets posted in a swap and buying site . The item quickly caught my attention. After a few days and a couple of delays ( due to heavy monsoon rains ) I was able to meet the dealer/ collector and paid the stuff. According to the collector, He got the item from Japan few years ago and decided to unload the item.

 

 

 

 

Miss Globe 2015 is Miss Philippines

Miss Philippines together with her court ,1st Runner Up: Albania ,2nd Runner Up:, Macedonia, 3rd Runner Up: China,4th Runner Up: France

Trinidad and Tobago just won National Costume, Miss South Africa wins Miss Friendship, Miss Cuba wins Miss Talent and Miss Korea wins People’s Choice Award.

Official Top 15:
Russia
Albania
Portugal
Brazil
Poland

Canada
Philippines
China
Montenegro
Estonia

Mexico
Korea
France
Macedonia
Lithuania

CHINA Outshines Philippines in HOSTING the 2019 FIBA WORLD Championships

Tokyo , Japan

screen grabs from FIBA livestreaming

China edged Philippines as FIBA board members had chosen the sporting and economic powerhouse . Its presentation which showed that the country that hosted several key important events like Summer 2008 Olympic Games , 2010 Asian Games,  2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics among others .  Among its pitch are the 300 million Chinese basketball fans, over 3,000 basketball schools and at least 100,000 hotel rooms available in 8 major cities which are hosting the event. Plus over 1.3 billion Chinese . With that impressive and mammoth presentation. No country can probably match what CHINA host committee can offer.

screen grabs from presentation

The presentation projecting the success of the country in hosting major world events and how professionally it had shown to the entire world that CHINA can make it BIG TIME and it means Business.

They will also host the upcoming 2015 Fiba Asia Championships. “China never, never lets you down,” said Chinese Basketball Association President Yu Zaiging in the 20-minute presentation

China also boasted of holding the Fiba World Cup, which is held every four years, in eight keys cities which are easily connected by several forms of modern transportation.

The Philippines which banked on the Filipinos’ passion for the sports and reach on social media in its bid for the hosting, with a presentation focusing on its strength in infrastructure, hosting experience, and resources. Plus the fact that the country is becoming an economic powerhouse.

The announcement of the hosting was initially scheduled for 5:25 p.m. Manila time but was moved to 6:15 p.m.

Netizens Reaction

The hastag #PUSO2019 became a hot topic among netizens and twitter followers and the live-streaming site of FIBA was teeming with fans from all over the world.

Mr. Tonyo Cruz twitter

Majority of the Filipino netizens were quite dismayed over the FIBA decision but many say that it is like DAVID vs. Goliath scenario .  David = Philippines , Goliath = CHINA , now had the upper hand with the presentation .

Some people thinks that FIBA has already made their decision on giving CHINA hosting rights after the successful hosting of the country of FIBA Asia Championship several times. It wanted a more concrete plans and of course MONEY in hosting the event. Some netizens said that FIBA is looking for MONEY # PERA rather than # PUSO because pure heart does not translate into cold cash .

# SugatanPUSO2019  soon became a trending topic , In the social media conversations that followed, many made references to actual heartbreaking experiences like when someone gives you false hopes or hurts your feelings.  Mr. Emmanuel De Leon a twitter user said in his tweet that FIBA 2019 is

Ang pag-ibig parang : di pwedeng puro puso, dapat may BUDGET ka rin.

The list goes on and on, BUT i think the country had already proved itself capable in hosting BIG time event like FIBA in 1978 and maybe in the near future. As they always say,- “Back in the Drawing Board” .  I personally think that the country must focus on regional events like SEA Games in 2019 or maybe another shot in hosting ASIAN Games before hosting FIBA or any international events. Hosting an event needed money and it does not guarantee a hefty payback .

  • Note- I have watched the live-stream from FIBA and some news from Tokyo . I think based on the delays on the decision of FIBA board and its members,It must be more on getting an overwhelming majority votes .
  • According to the FIBA website : The FIBA Central Board composed of 21 members voted 14-7 in favor of China Friday, August 7 in Tokyo, Japan for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hosting, according to a press release from FIBA.
  • As a third world country like the Philippines, hosting a BIG event such as FIBA requires MONEY and infrastructure , in which CHINA is capable of upstaging given to the relatively size of their country and people.

Different Lumpias ( Spring Rolls ) from the Philippines

Quezon City , Philippines

Chinese style -lumpia from Sincerity Restaurant, Binondo

Lumpia is a common term for any egg roll , spring roll , vegetable rolls that is Chinese in origin but through centuries of assimilation and adaptation to suit the local taste, preference, availability of the ingredients and due to health reasons  . There had been different  varieties of the lumpias in the country. It is more popularly called ” spring roll” since most of the vegetables used in the ingredients are grown in spring and it is normally eaten as a festival food during ” Spring Festival ” which coincide with Chinese New Year .

I have some relatives and friends who lives in Malabon / Navotas areas and some of them called  it ”  Sumpia” . I do not know where did they get the name but somehow the name eventually evolve .

Lumpiang Shanghai ala New Toho Restaurant ( This is one of the favorite meal of Dr. Jose Rizal) – The New Toho Restaurant  had more meat compared to the regular lumpia.

The recipes, both fried and fresh versions, were brought by Chinese immigrants from the Fujian province of China to Southeast Asia and became popular where they settled in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Lumpiang Shanghai ala Ilang-Ilang restaurant

Lumpiang Shanghai is one of the MUST Try menu at the Ilang-Ilang Restaurant in Binondo . It is bigger compared to the other Lumpiang Shanghai in Binondo area.

Lumpiang Shanghai is not a spring roll that came from Shanghai , China.  It was more of a marketing style to lure people asking for a more specific name to the spring roll. It is sometimes called Lumpiang Baboy because of the main ingredient , which is ground pork meat. But according to some Filipino-Chinese , people name these spring roll to Shanghai because of the many Fujian, Cantonese, Taiwan dishes in the country.

Shanghai is more cosmopolitan and urban in nature which makes this dish more international appeal. Hence it was called ever since.

Globe Lumpia located in 740 Raon St. ( Gonzalo Puyat street ), Quiapo, Manila.

Globe Lumpia or Lumpiang Sariwa is the most popular spring roll hole in a wall type of eatery near Quiapo church . I usually order 2 to 3 Globe lumpia . They are one of the cheapest in Manila. Their special ingredient includes julienne papaya , jicama  ( picama/ singkamas) , sayote/ chayote with generous topping of crush peanuts, finely chop fresh garlic and their special sauce. The most busy day is friday and on weekends. It is best to accompany the lumpia with softdrink like sarsi or sprite.

The store had been there since 1956 .  The price increased from 20 centavos in the 1950’s to Php 18.00 . The restaurant can only accommodate between 15 to 20 people. I would always frequent the place since i  just lived just a few blocks away, until a few years ago. Some television shows like Kris TV, Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho , Ceasar Montano and even Dolphy are some of the famous clientele of the place.

Lumpiang Bangus – Milk Fish Spring Roll

Milk Fish Spring Rolls or Lumpiang Bangus may have traced its origin to the milk fish producing provinces of Pangasinan, Sarangani, Davao area.  The main ingredient is from milk fish fillet . This is a healthy spring roll , But compared to the regular Lumpiang Shanghai or Lumpiang Frito – This is more expensive . In a recent food fair, I also have tasted Lumpiang Tahong ( made from mussles ) from Cavite province. There is also Lumpiang Kanduli or Creme Dory spring roll. These are some of the spring rolls that i have tasted .

There are mostly fried , wrapped fresh with the cooked ingredients which consists of vegetables and some meat. Most people refer Chinese -style lumpia because of the main filling is made of sauted chopped carrots, green beans, tofu, bean sprouts , mushrooms, sayote ,crush peanuts , fried and crush vermicelli noodles, hoti ( type of green seaweed ) , lettuce leaves ,wansoy ( chopped coriander leaves) , with sweet sauce or slightly spicy sauce. Some would like more more fresh chopped garlic included in the wrapper , some do not like fresh garlic and wansoy ( chopped coriander leaves ) . BUT i loved them.

Lumpia Puso ng Saging (  banana blossom spring rolls)

Lumpia Puso ng Saging or Banana Blossom Spring Roll is not popular in mainstream Philippine culinary palate , But once you tasted it , you will be a convert . It is one of the alternatives for meat and oily deep fried spring rolls. The ingredients is quite common especially when you come from a province where there are a lot of banana plants in bloom.

The common variety of banana blossom is  the saging na saba ( a type of plantain) .  I have tasted this lumpia in a gathering of some senior citizen which prefers this type of lumpia compared to lumpiang shanghai  . This is the same with Lumpiang Kabute ( Mushroom Spring roll) In mushroon growing areas , They used 2 to 3 types of mushroom , chop them finely combined with tofu , carrots and spices. They can be a good alternative to the usual fried lumpia.

The dipping sauce is very varied too, Some use ordinary vinegar with some finely chopped garlic, shallots , chilli peppers and ground peppers. Other favorite condiments includes, banana ketchup, soy sauce with vinegar with finely chopped onions, chilli peppers and calamansi .

The banana blossom lumpia is much cheaper to make compared to the mushroom lumpia .  One big banana blossom only cost between Php 15 to Php 30 in local wet market ( depending on season and availability )

Lumpiang Shanghai by Ambos Mundos

Ambos Mundos is one of the oldest restaurant in Santa Cruz, Manila area . The restaurant offers Filipino, Chinese and Spanish dishes . One of the fave is their Lumpiang Shanghai .

Lumpiang Ubod / Sariwa by Max’s restaurant

Lumpiang Ubod ng Niyog- This is one of the most popular spring rolls being offered by Goldilocks, Max’s restaurant , Kunina ni Kambal among several others. The main ingredients are the young coconut  heart are sauteed with shrimp and pork, rolled in crepe-like wrappers made with flour , egg and cornstarch. Special coconut farms specifically for the production of palms. If unavailable , Picama /Jicama  / Singkamas can be used to substitute .

home -style lumpia

The author have tasted at least around a dozen or so variation with different types of ingredients and preparation. I have an aunt who prepares Filipino- Chinese style of lumpia with 18 ingredients .  I tried to collectively write about the different types of lumpias that i have eaten , mostly in Metro Manila . But i think that there are more than a dozen  of spring roll variants.

This is our home-style version of lumpia- It is our way of combining different ingredients and cooking styles. The wrapper is home made .

Lumpiang Tagalog by Kusina ni Kambal

The cheapest and one of the most underrated ones are Lumpiang Frito / Lumpiang Toge or Lumpia Gulay ( normally fried )  – without the wrappers, The dish is called Lumpia Hubad or Lumpia Tagalog. 

lumpiang frito  is also called lumpiang gulay ,lumpiang toge

They are commonly sold as street foods all over the country and price range from Php 4.00 to about Php 40.00 in posh malls. Spring rolls or lumpia ingredients vary from one family to another . It may also due to the availability of the ingredients.

Mann Hann restaurant serve lumpia. Delis like Little Store, DEC, or sunday market bazaar regular Yen Ching , New Po Heng near Binondo church , GLOBE lumpia in Quiapo , Maki Place, New Eastern Restaurant along Ongpin street, Sincerity in Yuchengco street ( formerly called Nueva)  , Polland , Baliwag Lechon among others.