Shīsā (シーサー) (Okinawan: siisaa) (alternative spelling shishi) is a traditional Ryukyuan decoration, often found in pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog.
The shisa, like the koma-inu (lion dogs), is a variation of the guardian lions ("fu dogs") from China.
Many people put a pair of Shisa on their rooftops or flanking the gates to their houses. When found in pairs, the shisa on the left traditionally has a closed mouth, and the one on the right an open mouth. The open mouth to ward off evil spirits, and the closed mouth to keep good spirits in.
Shisa are wards, believed to protect from various evils.
(adapted from Legends of Okinawa by Chizue Sesoko)
When a certain emissary to China returned from one of his voyages to the court at Shuri Castle, he brought with him as a gift for the king a necklace decorated with a small figurine of a shisa-dog. The king found it charming and wore it underneath his clothes. Now it happened that at the Naha Port bay, the village of Madanbashi was often terrorized by a sea dragon who ate the villagers and destroyed their property. One day, the King was visiting the village, and one of these attacks happened; all the people ran and hid. The local noro had been told in a dream to instruct the king when he visited to stand on the beach and lift up his figurine towards the dragon; she sent the boy, Chiga, to tell him the message. He faced the monster with the figurine held high, and immediately a giant roar sounded all through the village, a roar so deep and powerful that it even shook the dragon. A massive boulder then fell from heaven and crushed the dragon's tail. He couldn't move, and eventually died. This boulder and the dragon's body became covered with plants and surrounded by trees, and can still be seen today. It is the "Gana-mui Woods" near Naha Ohashi bridge. The townspeople built a large stone shisa to protect it from the dragon's spirit and other threats.
- The 1974 tokusatsu kaiju film Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla features a giant shisa monster called King Shisa (transliterated as King Caesar or King Seesar in the U.S. release), who was awakened from its ancient slumber in Okinawa to help Godzilla destroy his mechanical doppelgänger, Mechagodzilla. This monster was later used in Godzilla: Final Wars as one of the monsters that were controlled by the Xilians.
- The Pokémon Growlithe and its evolution Arcanine are based on the shisa.
- The Digimon Seasarmon is based on a shisa, along with Chatsuramon.
- Yoshiyuki Saito, a Japanese professional wrestler hailing from Okinawa, uses the mask and gimmick Super Shisa. He also has a young protegé named Shisa Boy and once formed a team with King Shisa (Pentagon Black).
- Megaman ZX Advent have two Shisa based Pseudoroids, Argoyle and Urgoyle, They work as a pair when fighting and become a playable form after being defeated.
- In the game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the talking boat, The King of Red Lions has a head on the front of the boat resembling a Shisa.
- The Demon Sorcerer Dai Gui from Jackie Chan Adventures has a Shisa-like face.
- Two variations on the Shisa, in this case referred to as Foo Dogs and Foo Lions or Foo Creatures, are featured in the first edition Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game's Monster Manual II.
- In the game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES, there is a Shisa Persona, although its name is spelt as "Shiisaa."
- In the PlayStation 2 game Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, the aeon Yojimbo had a shisaa, Daigoro, as his companion. Yuna gains a similar shisaa, Kogoro, as her animal partner with the Trainer dressphere.
- A Shisa has also appeared in few episodes of Friends, in Joey and Chandler's apartment.