Tuesday, October 9, 2012
This post may not mean much if you have never been to Okinawa. I took the picture above right near the building where I have classes. The stone is on display with a plaque which I couldn't entirely read, but I think it said that these stones are common in Fukken in south-eastern China, across the straight from Taiwan, and where most Chinese descended Taiwanese people's ancestors come from.
The reason it grabbed my attention is that I've seen these before, like a million times before. They're really common in the Ryukyus. You see them at street intersections all the time. (You do not see them in the rest of Japan though.) They're called "Ishigantou", and they're placed in order to ward off evil spirits I believe. (The explanation I've always heard is kind of cute actually. The evil spirits for some reason can't help but charge straight forward and bang their heads at the intersection if an Ishigantou is left there.)
Fukken is historically where a lot of China's outward looking traders and sailors came from, so it's not surprising that their influence would extend to Taiwan and the Ryukyu's. I'd be interested to see if I ever see any Ishigantou like this just normally on the streets in Taiwan. I haven't yet, so evidently they aren't as popular here as in Okinawa.