Komainu: A pair of lion-like creatures in front of various shrines
The lion or dog-like statues that are placed in a pair, in front of shrines are called "Komainu". The creature on the right hand side facing the shrine has its mouth open, and the one on the left has its mouth closed. They are placed to protect the shrine from evil spirits. Some shrines have statues of foxes (Inari shrines), cows (Tenmangu shrines), and other animals that are considered to be the messenger of the god, instead of the lion.