Pursue the sleeping beauty in Onigawara

Onigawara, a Japanese ornamental tile, in Sanuki province

Onigawara is a traditional ornamental roof tile with a Japanese ogre face design, which is generally found on the edge of roofs in Japanese architecture.
The origin of Onigawara goes far back to 1400 years ago.
At present, it takes on various designs in Japan such as a family crest and auspicious animals, besides the terrifying ogre face.
The Onigawaras are believed to protect house and families from evil spirits, and have been used as amulets.
Today, not only their alleged spiritual power but also the beauty of their design is getting attention from many people.

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The face design, the heart of Onigawara

Mr. Jinnai has had an interesting career.
He used to be a cook and became an Onigawara craftsman afterwards.
The most difficult part, he says, is shaping the “face” of the Onigawara. The Onigawara made in Kagawa prefecture features especially the intricate details and the tri-dimensional face of the design.
He says that he usually gets inspiration from other art forms such as sculptures and paintings.
Popular Onigawara themes are animals such as dragons, tigers, lions from the Chinese imaginary, and carps as well as plants such as peach blossom, peony, and chrysanthemum although his favorite pattern is a “cloud”.
Local people from Kagawa as well as tourists love his lively Onigawara products.

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The fascination of “oxidized silver” color, which adds even more uniqueness to the Onigawara

Although the clay used for Onigawara can stand at a maximum of 1100C heat, the firing of the clay in a 1100C kiln sometimes causes bends and cracks in the pieces.
In order to prevent potential breakage, craftsmen usually fire the pieces at 1050C, where clay pieces are fired under the condition of incomplete combustion.
After this process, the pieces are sealed up with wood briquettes.
This “oxidation firing” technique gives stone tiles their unique texture and color.

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Sanuki Onigawara


Shunji Jinnai has been making Sanuki ridge-end tiles for more than 30 years. In 2010, his Onigawara Udon bowl was awarded “Outstanding work” and recommended by the governor of the Kagawa prefecture. He loves to bring unique motifs such as animals, fish, clouds, Bach (musician) into ridge –end tile creations and he is passionate about trying out different methods and patterns.

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