Namiki is pleased to announce the launch of our special
Limited Edition Fountain pen set that marks Pilot Corporation's
88th Anniversary, called “Shishi-Komainu” & “Nioh”
On the occasion of our 88th anniversary, we have created commemorative fountain pens with the motif of “Komainu” (guardian dogs) and “Nioh” (guardian gods). These are both pairs of mythical entities that have become deeply rooted in the Japanese culture and loved by all as trusted guardians, talismans against evil, and means of purification. This concept is intertwined with the Oriental belief that the pair of numbers “88” signifies increasing prosperity and well-being. The Kokkokai artisans created these commemorative fountain pens by drawing on its traditional Maki-e craftsmanship handed down over the 80 years of its existence.
In Egypt and Mesopotamia, the cradles of human civilization, many kings had thrones supported by lions, the king of beasts, in a subservient posture of obedience. People gradually came to see the lion as a guardian spirit beast, and so they created symbolic structures such the Sphinx and lion gates at castles.
In China, the concept of the mythical lion entered by way of the Silk Road, and the Lion Throne came into China from India along with Buddhism. The lions that entered Chinese culture were assimilated into the already existing panoply of mythical beasts, and subsequently they entered Japan in the form of Karajishi (Chinese lion), a guarding beast that protects people from evil.
Now, looking at the “Komainu” concept, which is also a mythical dog-like beast that entered Japan in much the same way, there are several theories regarding its name. It may have come from ancient Korea, or perhaps from some other foreign land, but it is thought to be an extension of the mythical unicorn concept.
In the ancient Imperial Court of Japan, there was a tendency to adopt Chinese systems and lifestyles, and these mythical beasts from mainland Asia served as guardians and talismans. They were used as weights for bamboo screens and curtains, and pictures of these beasts were painted on the sliding doors of the Hall for State Ceremonies of the Imperial Palace. In Japan, these mythical lions are known as “Shishi” and the dogs as “Komainu”. In ancient times, these were considered to be different kinds of beasts, and they were always located in pairs with the “Shishi” on the left and the “Komainu” on the right.
The “Komainu”, supposedly a descendant of the unicorn, dates back a long way, and formerly they were depicted as powerful beasts with a long horn. But, with the passage of time, the horn became progressively shorter and the distinction between “Komainu” and “Shishi” disappeared. Interestingly, although the form is now that of the “Shishi”, the name is still “Komainu”.
The form of Buddhism that entered Japan merged with the ancient gods of Japan, and a harmonious synthesis of Buddhism and Shinto evolved.
A pair of “Nioh” guardian god statues stands at the Great South Gate of the Todaiji Temple in Nara. In the past, pairs of “Komainu” and/or “Nioh” guardian god statues were placed at both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples without distinction.
However, in 1869 the Edict for Separation of Shinto and Buddhism required that “Komainu” should only be located at Shrines and “Nioh” gods only at Temples.
“Nioh” is also known as Vajradhara in Sanskrit, and he is the guardian of Buddhism and temple buildings. People believe that, if they pray to “Nioh”, they will maintain good health and strong legs.
Looking at a pair of “Komainu” and “Nioh”, the one with its mouth open is known as “Ah” and that with a closed mouth is called “Un”. These two sounds signify the beginning and end of all things (Alpha and Omega). In Japan, this is known as Ah-Un breathing, and it means “instant anticipation of another's intentions”.
“Komainu” and “Nioh” are cultural concepts that originated overseas, but over many centuries they have become deeply enrooted in the culture of Japan and familiar entities to the Japanese people.
On the occasion of our 88th Anniversary, we have created these commemorative fountain pens with the motif of “Shishi-Komainu” and “Nioh”, and we hope you will cherish these pens for many years as your guardian talismans.