Mysterious golden lion statue leaves us even more puzzled after we give it some money.

Shinjuku is full of exciting places to see, like Kabukicho, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. There are also a lot of hidden treasures scattered throughout the city, like this basuiso (‘horse drinking trough‘), which is a designated cultural asset.

The trough was donated by the city of London in the early 1900s. The trough, one of only three of its kind worldwide, is a water fountain made from marble. It has an upper level trough designed for horses to drink water from, a lower level for animals like dogs and cats, and around the back is a water fountain for people to drink out of.

Just next to the trough is another hidden gem; this intriguing looking golden lion, its name rendered in English as Milion. Not to be read in the same way as “m’lady” or ‘million’; perhaps an easier to understand rendering would be ‘Miraion’ — a portmanteau of the Japanese word mirai (‘future’) and raion (‘lion’).

The lion statue actually functions as a charity donation box, and a nearby signboard says donations are put towards disaster victims and the ‘sound upbringing of youth’. According to this above sign, if you put money into the lion’s mouth, he will roar back in appreciation. This sounded like something worth investigating, so we sent our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma down to check it out.

▼ The lion was protruding out of a pyramid, and reminded Masanuki of the time he visited a similar looking pyramid in Tochigi Prefecture. 

Masanuki had never had a lion roar at him in appreciation for charitable donations before, so he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect; just how loud would the roar be? The statue was right in front of one of Shinjuku Station’s many, many exits so there were a lot of people around, and it would be kind of embarrassing if the statue roared super loudly. On the other hand, if the lion’s roar was too quiet, it would feel like Masanuki’s generous gesture wasn’t really being acknowledged.

As he approached the statue, coin in hand, Masanuki could feel the gaze of other people nearby, watching him from behind. Perhaps they too were planning on donating something, or maybe they were just curious to see if the lion really roared.

Masanuki gingerly raised his hand near the lion’s mouth where the coin slot was located. He slowly pushed the coin through the slot, which was big enough to receive even paper bills…

▼ *clunk*

“*rooooar* Thank you very much.”

▼ Hear it roar for yourself in the second slide —

Not only did the lion roar, but from out of nowhere, a woman’s voice echoed out, thanking Masanuki for his donation. But instead of feeling appreciated for his small act of charity, the appearance of a woman’s voice just raised more questions for Masanuki. Who was this woman? Did the voice belong to the golden lion itself? Or was a woman living inside the pyramid? How come a golden lion that feeds on money and lives halfway in a pyramid isn’t able to say ‘thank you’ by itself? So many questions.

The roar was loud enough for Masanuki and those around him to hear, but not so loud that it reached the station exit. But the roar seemed to do the trick as, perhaps emboldened by hearing a lion roar in the middle of a metropolitan city like Shinjuku, another group of people stepped forward to insert money into the lion’s mouth.

It’s certainly a unique way to encourage people to donate their money, but clearly an effective one. If you want to have a go at making the lion roar too, you can find it near the horse trough, both of which are located just outside Shinjuku Station’s east exit. Good luck finding the exit, though.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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