Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

(This is a late entry for The Daily Post.)

Just a few weeks ago, I relocated to Japan to be with my husband. Some well-meaning friends have asked me whether I was afraid to start out in a new country. My answer was a maybe. “I may be afraid, but I am more overcome with excitement than fear.”

“Merge” is a most fitting word for this change I have welcomed. In the last few weeks, there have been a “merge” of two stubborn personalities, of two cultures, and of two lives. My husband and I have just started, yet I can’t help but feel that Japan is really one of the best settings for our beginning.

Every place has its history. Japan clearly does not lack in history. Where we live right now is Okinawa, formerly a part of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. It had its own religion and even mythology.  One of the most enduring aspect of their history is the mythical creature called the shisa lions/dogs. A version of the legend is found here.

Ancient legend as it may be, the story of the shisa has clearly stayed with the Okinawans. Every where on this island, you can see one or two of these creatures guarding the entrance to a home or to a restaurant. There have been variations as to how they are depicted.

The above picture was taken at Gala World, Yomitan-son, Okinawa, Japan. The statuette was painted with vibrant colors and was even made to wear a baseball cap made from paper. Baseball — another aspect of the Japanese culture that they so clearly enjoy.

Most of the time, the shisa  is shown in its more traditional appearance — in stone and looking out at the world with a defiant look on its lion-like face.

Giant shisa creature near Cape Zanpa

It has also become common for them to be depicted with a modern approach. The picture below are graffiti-inspired interpretations of these guardians over one of the walls of a local restaurant bar.

This merging of the past with the modern is what Japan had been doing for years. Japan’s economy, not to mention its technology, has moved forward at such a rapid pace that one may assume that their roots will be easily forgotten. Here in Okinawa, that simply isn’t happening.

A country with such a clear and firm desire to remember its cultural past can only be the best setting for the continuation of my husband and I’s journey together.


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