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Onigawara at Tokyo University of the Arts. Photo by Haragayato [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 
Onigawara (from the Japanese word oni, meaning “ogre”) are monster heads sometimes found on the roofs of Japanese buildings. They are similar to what we typically call “grotesques” – decorative creatures with symbolic, religious, or ideological rather than practical function. The onigawara I’ve seen are generally closer to relief-carvings than other types of grotesque, and accordingly, I haven’t found any indication that they ever serve as gargoyles. Such a function would likely necessitate three-dimensionality. I greatly enjoy their highly-expressive aesthetic, and though they’re not quite gargoyles, I feel that they should be considered as related creatures.

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