Japanese lion dogs, as they are called in English, are sculptures placed in the front of Japanese and Buddhist temples. They can also be found in front of the residences of nobility or private citizens. They are called Shishi or Jishi in Japanese.
The purpose of these lion dogs is to protect the temples by scaring away evil spirits with their magical powers. They are usually placed in pairs, and one has a mouth open while the mouth of the other is closed. The contrast of one open and one closed mouth is meant to evoke the two sounds "ah" and "un." The two sounds together signify life and death as well as all other possible outcomes of existence.