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Shrine Dog Koma-inu

Japan flag. Photos | Images of Japan: Shrine Dog

Outside many Japanese Shinto shrines you will see a pair of lion dogs or koma-inu (狛犬) guarding the entrance to the shrine near the torii. One koma-inu has its mouth open and the other closed, one explanation for this is that the koma-inu with its mouth open is mouthing the sound "a" (あ) - the first letter in the Japanese syllabary and the other is voicing "n" (ん) - the last sound. Thus between them the lion dogs represent all things, somewhat akin to the Greek alpha-omega and the Indian Sanskrit "om".

Shrine Dog.

Jake Davies

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Japan Images: Shrine Dog koma-inu (狛犬)