- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 27 Jul 2017
They are generally roof tiles or statues that depict a Japanese ogre (oni) or demon. Prior to the late-12th century, they tended to be decorated with floral or plant designs, but with the arrival of the Kamakura Period (c. 1185), the ‘oni’ design became more prevalent.
Onigawara are usually found at the ends of the main roof ridge as well as at the ends of the descending ridges. While their spiritual function is to guard against evil, in the same way as European gargoyles, their practical function is to protect against weathering. They are primarily made of ceramics, although stone or timber varieties can also be found.
Another similar decorative feature in Japanese architecture is shachihoko [see image below], which is a carving covered in gold leaf of a mythical creature comprising the body of a fish and the head of a tiger. These are often found on top of the main ridge of temple roofs and castles, to ward off fires.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
70 buildings from 70 years of Concrete Quarterly. Book review.
Conserving the iron roof at the Albert Dock.
Delivering an infrastructure revolution.
The admissibility of evidence.
How many can you name? 37 anyone?
CIOB respond to the points-based system.
When is the weather considered 'exceptionally adverse'?
ECA backs call for a rolling programme of rail electrification.
What does 'curtilage' mean and why does it matter?
Our duty to prevent harm and protect each other.
A quality perspective.