The name “onigawara” means literally “demon tiles” because the early end tiles were traditionally molded in the shape of a demon’s head or face, much like a clay gargoyle with the same function, i.e., to ward off evil. Onigawara developed around the middle of the Edo period when the tile roofs became popular for houses, and they reflected the status of the family. These highly decorative and unusual Japanese architectural elements are very popular in Japan.
Nineteenth-century Japanese oni-gawara/devil tile for positioning on the roof of a traditional Japanese house; a protective symbol, the clouds and waves below it additionally warding against fire. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)