On the roof of Yushima Seido sits Kiginto, a kind of Shachihoko

Roof of Yushima Seido
Roof of Yushima Seido
Similar Photos

Since the name of the Shachi is similar to that of the killer whale (Shachi in Japanese), which is believed to be at the top of the marine food chain. Thus, I had assumed that the objects standing tall on the magnificent roofs of castles and temples were similar to those found in the sea. Although I still had my doubts as to why they chose a creature that lives in the sea instead of a tiger or lion that lives on land, I was convinced that a strong creature would be suitable for a magnificent structure built by a powerful person.

But what about that? The Shachi on the roof and Shachi in the sea are two completely different creatures. The Shachi on the roof, also called Shachihoko, is an imaginary sea animal with a head similar to a tiger. It also has a thorn on its back, similar to a fish. The reason why they are on rooftops away from the sea is that they are believed to be fireproof. It seems like they are more of a fire prevention device than a sign of authority.

It is complicated that one is an imaginary creature and the other is a real creature, even though they have the same name. It is as if the kirin, an imaginary creature that is said to appear as a sign of good fortune when the Holy Son of Heaven appears, and the long-necked giraffe, which actually lives in Africa. They sound the same and are both names of creatures, but in reality, they are completely different.

When I looked at the roof of the Yushima Seido in Yushima, I found a Shachihoko sitting firmly on the roof here as well. Upon closer inspection, one can see that the Shachihoko on the roof of Yushima Seido has a dragon's head and tail. In contrast, the common Shachihoko has a tiger's head and tail. It is said that this is also a kind of Shachihoko and is called Kiginto. What is interesting is that although it is supposed to be a dragon, it blows the tide from above its head like a whale orca. The Taiseiden was designed by Chuta Ito, who also designed the Yushukan of Yasukuni Shrine and Tsukiji Hongan-ji Temple. I felt a bit of kinship with Chuta Ito when I thought about how the killer whales of the sea and the Shachihoko of our imagination might have been mixed up in the mind of the famous architect.

Comment via




Shooting Date

Jun 2022

Posted On

August 19, 2022

Modified On

August 11, 2023


Yushima, Tokyo


Street Photography





Some Photographing Locations inside Japan

See all Locations »

Some Categories by subject