More Japan Travel Articles — More Travel Articles
by Bob Kerstetter
As defensive weapons, shachihoko traditionally provide protection to castles in Japan.
Because of this they often reside on castle roofs to fend off destructive forces such as evil spirits and fire from lightning or enemy attack.
Their bodies resemble fish, some say carp. Their heads approximate those of large cats, such as lions or tigers.
Commonly called shachi, they come as male with eight teeth—four on each side—or female with four teeth—two on each side.
These shachi greet visitors to Shibata Castle in Shibata City, Niigata Prefecture, Japan.
Two additional shachi guard the main gate to Shibata Castle.
The formal name of the protectors appears to be shachihoko. The Japanese write the name as しゃちほこ in hiragana. The kanji is 鯱. Everyday language calls the protectors shachi, dropping hoko from the name.