See Japan's castles the easy way
Article posted on Saturday, March, 26th, 2011 at 10:38 pm
The term “鬼瓦” refers to the upright roof tile that often bears the grotesque face of a demon. The word, read as Onigawara, has also been the source of some amusement for me while learning more about it for this post. Let’s see why.
- Google translate‘s sole suggestion: pug-ugly!
- jisho.org: 1. decorative ridge-end tile (traditionally bearing the face of a demon and resembling a gargoyle), 2. hideous face (Hmmm…)
- And finally, from jdictionary.com: 1. ridge-end tile; 2. tile with the figure of a devil; 3. gargoyle; 4. one’s wife. (Lulz!)
Seen on towers, temples, gates and walls, this particular type of tile can be found in one of two places, at the ends of the upper-most ridge, or as can be seen below from Matsumoto castle, on one of the downward-sloping ridges.
The following picture, while nowhere near as cool as the preceding one, does illustrate some significant differences. Difference No. 1, there are no hideous faces. It seems these demon tiles have only been around since about the Kamakura period (1185–1333). Prior to this motifs of fauna and flora were common. Yes, and Chinese characters too, I guess.
One other difference is their overall shape. The one on the left is sporting wings. Both of these demon tiles were excavated at Sashiki castle. Incidentally, a castle that had been in use since the 1300′s.
Getting back to those wings, they are known in Japanese as hire (鰭) and means fins, as in a fish’s fins. The fins depicted above are conspicuously plain. Usually they are more flowing, with patterns of waves and such. As much as I’d like to bore you with some examples, I won’t. Unless of course, someone would like to see some more examples… No? That’s okay.. too…