Japanese dragon

Japanese dragon

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Japanese dragon'
Start a new discussion about 'Japanese dragon'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

Japanese dragons are diverse legendary creatures in Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

 and folklore
Japanese folklore
The folklore of Japan is heavily influenced by both Shinto and Buddhism, the two primary religions in the country. It often involves humorous or bizarre characters and situations and also includes an assortment of supernatural beings, such as bodhisattva, kami , yōkai , yūrei ,...

. Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. The style of the dragon was heavily influenced by the Chinese dragon
Chinese dragon
Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs...

. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities
Water deity
A water deity is a deity in mythology associated with water or various bodies of water. Water deities are common in mythology and were usually more important among civilizations in which the sea or ocean, or a great river was more important...

 associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. The modern Japanese language
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 has numerous "dragon" words, including indigenous tatsu
Tatsu
Tatsu, meaning "dragon" in Japanese is a steel flying roller coaster operating at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. It opened May 13, 2006. The ride was promoted with a Japanese mythology theme. Tatsu is the only flying coaster to have a Zero-G Roll...

 from Old Japanese
Old Japanese
is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language.This stage in the development of Japanese is still actively studied and debated, and key Old Japanese texts, such as the Man'yōshū, remain obscure in places.-Dating:...

 ta-tu, Sino-Japanese ryū
Ryu
* Ryū , a school of thought or discipline ., a book by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa* Ryū , a series by Masao Yajima and Akira Oze* Ryu , a common Korean family name...

 or ryō 竜 from Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 lóng 龍, nāga ナーガ from Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 nāga, and doragon ドラゴン from English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 dragon.

Indigenous Japanese dragons


The ca. 680 CE Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

 and the ca. 720 CE Nihongi mytho-histories have the first Japanese textual references to dragons. "In the oldest annals the dragons are mentioned in various ways," explains de Visser (1913:135), "but mostly as water-gods, serpent- or dragon-shaped." The Kojiki and Nihongi mention several ancient dragons:
  • Yamata no Orochi 八岐大蛇 "8-branched giant snake" was an 8-headed and 8-tailed dragon slain by the god of wind and sea Susanoo
    Susanoo
    , also known as is the Shinto god of the sea and storms. He is also considered to be ruler of Yomi.-Myths:In Japanese mythology, Susanoo, the powerful storm of Summer, is the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. All three were born from Izanagi, when...

    , who discovered the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi
    Kusanagi
    is a legendary Japanese sword and one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan. It was originally called but its name was later changed to the more popular Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi .-Legends:...

     (legendary sword of the Imperial Regalia of Japan
    Imperial Regalia of Japan
    The , also known as the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, consist of the sword Kusanagi , the mirror Yata no Kagami , and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama...

    ) in one of its tails.
  • Watatsumi
    Watatsumi
    was a legendary Japanese dragon and tutelary water deity. In Japanese mythology, is another name for the sea deity Ryūjin 龍神; and the ruling the upper, middle, and lower seas were created through the divine progenitor Izanagi's ceremonial purifications after returning from Yomi "the...

     海神 "sea god" or Ryūjin
    Ryujin
    , also known as Ōwatatsumi, was the tutelary deity of the sea in Japanese mythology. This Japanese dragon symbolized the power of the ocean, had a large mouth, and was able to transform into a human shape. Ryūjin lived in Ryūgū-jō, his palace under the sea built out of red and white coral, from...

     龍神 "dragon god" was the ruler of seas and oceans, and described as a dragon capable of changing into human form. He lived in the undersea Ryūgū-jō
    Ryugu-jo
    In Japanese mythology, Ryūgū-jō is the undersea palace of Ryūjin, the dragon god of the sea. Depending on the version of the legend, it is built from red and white coral, or from solid crystal. The inhabitants of the palace were Ryūjin's servants, which were various denizens of the sea...

     龍宮城 "dragon palace castle", where he kept the magical tide jewels
    Tide jewels
    In Japanese mythology, the and -- were magical gems that the Sea God used to control the tides. Classical Japanese history texts record an ancient myth that the ocean kami Watatsumi 海神 "sea god" or Ryūjin 龍神 "dragon god" presented the kanju and manju to his demigod son-in-law Hoori, and a later...

    .
  • Toyotama-hime
    Toyotama-hime
    , better known as , is a goddess in Japanese mythology, and is featured in the Kojiki as well as Nihon Shoki. She is the beautiful daughter of Ryūjin, the god of the sea. She married the hunter Hoori and gave birth to a son, who in turn produced Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan...

     豊玉姫 "Luminous Pearl Princess" was Ryūjin's daughter. She purportedly was an ancestress of Emperor Jimmu
    Emperor Jimmu
    was the first Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He is also known as Kamuyamato Iwarebiko and personally as Wakamikenu no Mikoto or Sano no Mikoto....

    , Japan's legendary first emperor.
  • Wani
    Wani (dragon)
    was a dragon or sea monster in Japanese mythology. Since it is written using the kanji 鰐 wani is translated as "crocodile", or sometimes "shark" ....

     鰐 was a sea monster
    Sea monster
    Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

     that is translated as both "shark" and "crocodile". Kuma-wani 熊鰐 "bear (i.e., giant or strong) shark/crocodile" are mentioned in two ancient legends. One says the sea god Kotoshiro-nushi-no-kami transformed into an "8-fathom kuma-wani" and fathered Toyotama-hime, the other says a kuma-wani piloted the ships of Emperor Chūai
    Emperor Chuai
    ; also known as Tarashinakatsuhiko no Sumeramikoto; was the 14th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 192–200....

     and his Empress Jingū.
  • Mizuchi
    Mizuchi
    was a Japanese dragon and water deity.The name mizuchi is written with several Japanese kanji, usually the Chinese characters for jiao 蛟 "4-legged dragon" and qiu 虬 or 虯 "hornless dragon"...

     蛟 or 虯 was a river dragon and water deity. The Nihongi records legendary Emperor Nintoku
    Emperor Nintoku
    was the 16th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 313–399.-Legendary narrative:...

     offering human sacrifices to mizuchi angered by his river engineering
    River engineering
    River engineering is the process of planned human intervention in the course, characteristics or flow of a river with the intention of producing some defined benefit. People have intervened in the natural course and behaviour of rivers since before recorded history - to manage the water resources,...

     projects.

These myths about Emperor Jimmu descending from Toyatama-hime evidence the folklore that Japanese Emperors
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 are descendants of dragons. Compare the ancient Chinese tradition of dragons symbolizing the Emperor of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

.

Dragons in later Japanese folklore were influenced by Chinese and Indian myths.
  • Kiyohime 清姫 "Purity Princess" was a teahouse waitress who fell in love with a young Buddhist priest. After he spurned her, she studied magic, transformed into a dragon, and killed him.
  • Nure-onna
    Nure-onna
    A is an amphibious creature with the head of a woman and the body of a snake. While the description of her appearance varies slightly from story to story, she has been described as being 300 m in length and has snake-like eyes, long claws, fangs and long, beautiful hair. She is typically spotted...

     濡女 "Wet Woman" was a dragon with a snake's body and a woman's head. She was typically seen while washing her hair on a riverbank and would sometimes kill humans when angered.
  • Zennyo Ryūō
    Zennyo Ryuo
    is a rain-god dragon in Japanese mythology. According to Japanese Buddhist tradition, the priest Kūkai made Zennyo Ryūō appear in 824 CE during a famous rainmaking contest at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.-Name:...

     善如龍王 "goodness-like dragon king" was a rain-god depicted either as a dragon with a snake on its head or as a human with a snake's tail.
  • In My Lord Bag of Rice
    My Lord Bag of Rice
    My Lord Bag of Rice or Japanese Tawara Tōda is a fairy tale about a hero who kills the giant centipede Seta to help a Japanese dragon princess, and is rewarded in her underwater Ryūgū-jō 龍宮城 "dragon palace castle"....

    , the Ryūō "dragon king" of Lake Biwa
    Lake Biwa
    is the largest freshwater lake in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture , northeast of the former capital city of Kyoto. Because of its proximity to the ancient capital, references to Lake Biwa appear frequently in Japanese literature, particularly in poetry and in historical accounts of battles.-...

     asks the hero Tawara Tōda 田原藤太 to kill a giant centipede.
  • Urashima Tarō
    Urashima Taro
    is a Japanese legend about a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to Ryūgū-jō, the palace of Ryūjin, the Dragon God, under the sea...

     rescued a turtle
    Turtle
    Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines , characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield...

     which took him to Ryūgū-jō and turned into the attractive daughter of the ocean god Ryūjin.
  • Inari
    Inari (mythology)
    is the Japanese kami of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry and worldly success and one of the principal kami of Shinto. Represented as male, female, or androgynous, Inari is sometimes seen as a collective of three or five individual kami...

    , the god of fertility and agriculture, was sometimes depicted as a dragon or snake instead of a fox.

Sino-Japanese dragons


Chinese dragon mythology is central to Japanese dragons. Japanese words for "dragon" are written with kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 "Chinese characters", either simplified shinjitai
Shinjitai
Shinjitai are the forms of kanji used in Japan since the promulgation of the Tōyō Kanji List in 1946. Some of the new forms found in shinjitai are also found in simplified Chinese, but shinjitai is generally not as extensive in the scope of its modification...

 竜 or traditional kyūjitai
Kyujitai
Kyūjitai, literally "old character forms" , are the traditional forms of kanji, Chinese written characters used in Japanese. Their simplified counterparts are shinjitai, "new character forms". Some of the simplified characters arose centuries ago and were in everyday use in both China and Japan,...

 龍 from Chinese long 龍. These kanji can be read tatsu in native Japanese kun'yomi and ryū or ryō in Sino-Japanese on'yomi.

Many Japanese dragon names are loanwords from Chinese. For instance, the Japanese counterparts of the astrological Four Symbols
Four Symbols (Chinese constellation)
The Four Symbols are four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are:*Azure Dragon of the East *Vermilion Bird of the South *White Tiger of the West *Black Tortoise of the North...

 are:
  • Seiryū < Qinglong 青龍 "Azure Dragon"
  • Suzaku < Zhuque 朱雀 "Vermilion Bird"
  • Byakko < Baihu 白虎 "White Tiger
    White Tiger (Chinese constellation)
    The White Tiger is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. It is sometimes called the White Tiger of the West , and is known as Baihu in Chinese, Byakko in Japanese, Baekho in Korean and Bạch Hổ in Vietnamese...

    "
  • Genbu < Xuanwu 玄武 "Black Tortoise"

Japanese Shiryū 四竜 "4 dragon [kings]" are the legendary Chinese Longwang 龍王 "Dragon King
Dragon King
The four Dragon Kings are, in Chinese mythology, the divine rulers of the four seas . Although Dragon Kings appear in their true forms as dragons, they have the ability to shapeshift into human form...

s" who rule the four seas.
  • Gōkō < Aoguang 敖廣 "Dragon King of the East Sea
    Dragon King of the East Sea
    Ao Guang is the Dragon King of the East Sea in Chinese mythology...

    "
  • Gōkin < Aoqin 敖欽 "Dragon King of the South Sea
    Dragon King of the South Sea
    Ao Shun or Ao Qin is the Dragon King of the South Sea in Chinese mythology. In Journey to the West, he is mentioned briefly in a battle with the Immortals over the death of their servant to the sea and again when Monkey demanded a gift from him and he presented him a red gold cap...

    "
  • Gōjun < Aorun 敖閏 "Dragon King of the West Sea
    Dragon King of the West Sea
    Ao Ji or Ao Run is the Dragon King of the West Sea . Of the four Dragon Kings he is the least mentioned and very little is known about him in Journey to the West except than when Sun Wukong asked him for a gift he did give him one. He could be linked to the White Tiger as both are Chinese western...

    "
  • Gōjun < Aoshun 敖順 "Dragon King of the North Sea
    Dragon King of the North Sea
    Ao Ming or Ao Shun is the Dragon King of the North Sea . He could be linked to Black Tortoise as both are Chinese gods of the north. His brothers are Ao Chin , Ao Jun and Ao Kuang .-External links:*...

    "


Some authors differentiate Japanese ryū and Chinese long dragons by the number of claws on their feet. "In Japan," writes Gould (1896:248), "it is invariably figured as possessing three claws, whereas in China it has four or five, according as it is an ordinary or an Imperial emblem."

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Japanese military named many armaments after Chinese dragons. The Kōryū
Koryu
is a Japanese word that is used in association with the ancient Japanese martial arts. This word literally translates as "old school" or "traditional school"...

 蛟竜 < jiaolong
Jiaolong
Jiaolong or jiao is a polysemous aquatic dragon in Chinese mythology. Edward H. Schafer describes the jiao.Spiritually akin to the crocodile, and perhaps originally the same reptile, was a mysterious creature capable of many forms called the chiao . Most often it was regarded as a kind of lung – a...

 蛟龍 "flood dragon" was a midget submarine
Midget submarine
A midget submarine is any submarine under 150 tons, typically operated by a crew of one or two but sometimes up to 6 or 8, with little or no on-board living accommodation...

 and the Shinryū
Mizuno Shinryu
The Mizuno Shinryu was a late-World War II Japanese rocket-powered suicide interceptor concept. The project never proceeded beyond the initial phase of development.-Configuration:...

 神竜 < shenlong
Shenlong
Shenlong, also Shen-lung, is a spiritual dragon from Chinese mythology who is the master of storms and also a bringer of rain. He is of equal significance like Tianlong, the celestial dragon....

 神龍 "spirit dragon" was a rocket kamikaze
Kamikaze
The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

 aircraft. An Imperial Japanese Army division, the 56th Division, was codenamed the Dragon Division. The Dragon Division was annihilated in the Chinese town of Longling, in Chinese meaning Dragon's Tomb.

Indo-Japanese dragons


When Buddhist monks from other parts of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 brought their faith to Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 they transmitted dragon and snake legends from Buddhist
Buddhist mythology
Buddhist mythology operates within the Buddhist belief system. It is a relatively broad mythology, as it was adopted and influenced by several diverse cultures such as Gandhara which was the capital of Bactria. Later on, it also came to incorporate aspects from countries such as China and Japan...

 and Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

. The most notable examples are the nāga ナーガ or 龍 "Nāga
Naga
Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

; rain deity; protector of Buddhism" and the nāgarāja ナーガラージャ or 龍王 ”Nāgaraja
Nagaraja
Nagaraja is a Sanskrit word from naga and raj meaning King of Snakes. It is applied to three main deities, Anantha , Takshak, and Vasuki. Anantha, Vasuki and Takshak are brothers, children of Kashyap and Kadru, who are the parents of all snakes...

; snake king; dragon king
Dragon King
The four Dragon Kings are, in Chinese mythology, the divine rulers of the four seas . Although Dragon Kings appear in their true forms as dragons, they have the ability to shapeshift into human form...

". De Visser (1913:179) notes that many Japanese nāga
Naga
Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

 legends have Chinese
Chinese folklore
Chinese folklore includes songs, dances, puppetry, and tales. It often tells stories of human nature, historical or legendary events, love, and the supernatural, or stories explaining natural phenomena and distinctive landmarks.-Folktales:...

 features. "This is quite clear, for it was via China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 that all the India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n tales came to Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. Moreover, many originally Japanese dragons, to which Chinese legends were applied, were afterwards identified with nāga
Naga
Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

, so that a blending of ideas was the result." For instance, the undersea palace where nāga
Naga
Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

 kings supposedly live is called Japanese ryūgū 龍宮 "dragon palace" from Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 longgong 龍宮. Compare ryūgū-jō 龍宮城 "dragon palace castle", which was the sea-god Ryūjin's undersea residence. Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese legends about the sea-god's tide jewels, which controlled the ebb and flow of tides, have parallels in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n legends about the nāga
Naga
Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

's nyoi-ju 如意珠 "cintamani
Cintamani
Cintamani also spelled as Chintamani is a wish-fulfilling jewel within both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, equivalent to the philosopher's stone in Western alchemy....

; wish-fulfilling jewels".

Some additional examples of Buddhistic Japanese dragons are:
  • Hachidai ryūō 八大龍王 "8 great naga kings" assembled to hear the Buddha expound on the Lotus Sutra
    Lotus Sutra
    The Lotus Sūtra is one of the most popular and influential Mahāyāna sūtras, and the basis on which the Tiantai and Nichiren sects of Buddhism were established.-Title:...

    , and are a common artistic motif.
  • Mucharinda ムチャリンダ "Mucalinda
    Mucalinda
    Mucalinda, Muchalinda or Mucilinda is the name of a naga , who protected the Buddha from the elements after his enlightenment....

    " was the Nāga king who protected the Buddha when he achieved bodhi
    Bodhi
    Bodhi is both a Pāli and Sanskrit word traditionally translated into English with the word "enlightenment", but which means awakened. In Buddhism it is the knowledge possessed by a Buddha into the nature of things...

    , and is frequently represented as a giant cobra.
  • Benzaiten
    Benzaiten
    Benzaiten is the Japanese name for the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her...

     弁才天 is the Japanese name of the goddess Saraswati
    Saraswati
    In Hinduism Saraswati , is the goddess of knowledge, music, arts, science and technology. She is the consort of Brahma, also revered as His Shakti....

    , who killed a 3-headed Vritra
    Vritra
    In the early Vedic religion, Vritra , is an Asura and also a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi...

     serpent or dragon in the Rigveda
    Rigveda
    The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

    . According to the Enoshima Engi
    Enoshima Engi
    The Enoshima Engi is a history of the temples and shrines on Enoshima Island in Sagami Bay. It was written in Chinese, the scholarly language of the time, by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kōkei in 1047 AD....

    , Benzaiten created Enoshima
    Enoshima
    is a small island, about 4 km in circumference, at the mouth of the Katase River, which flows into Sagami Bay in Japan. Part of the city of Fujisawa, it is linked to the Katase section of the same city on the mainland by a 600 meter-long bridge...

     Island in 552 CE in order to thwart a 5-headed dragon that had been harassing people.
  • Kuzuryū
    Kuzuryu
    , or is a deity that appears in folklore and legends of various parts of Japan, including, for example, Hakone , Nagano Prefecture and Fukui Prefecture. In many cases, the Kuzuryū is associated with water.-Hakone Kuzuryū legend:...

     九頭龍 "9-headed dragon", deriving from the multi-headed Naga king シェーシャ or 舍沙 "Shesha
    Shesha
    In Hindu tradition, Shesha or Sheshanaag is the king of all nagas, one of the primal beings of creation, and according to the Bhagavata Purana, an Avatar of the Supreme God known as Sankarshan. In the Puranas, Shesha is said to hold all the planets of the Universe on his hoods and to constantly...

    ", is worshipped at Togakushi Shrine
    Togakushi Shrine
    The is a Shinto shrine in Togakushi, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The shrine is located within the Jōshin'etsu Kōgen National Park. There are actually three shrines, known as the lower, middle, and upper shrine , each about 2 km apart...

     in Nagano Prefecture
    Nagano Prefecture
    is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūbu region of the island of Honshū. The capital is the city of Nagano.- History :Nagano was formerly known as the province of Shinano...

    .

Dragon temples


Dragon lore is traditionally associated with Buddhist temples
Buddhist temples in Japan
Along with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples are the most numerous, famous, and important religious buildings in Japan.The term "Shinto shrine" is used in opposition to "Buddhist temple" to mirror in English the distinction made in Japanese between Shinto and Buddhist religious structures. In...

. Myths about dragons living in ponds and lakes near temples are widespread. De Visser (1913:181-184) lists accounts for Shitennō-ji
Shitenno-ji
is a Buddhist temple in Osaka, Japan.Prince Shōtoku is said to have constructed this temple in 593. It is the first Buddhist and oldest officially administered temple in Japan, although the temple buildings have been rebuilt over the centuries. Most of the present structures are from when the...

 in Osaka
Osaka
is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

, Gogen Temple in Hakone, Kanagawa
Hakone, Kanagawa
is a town in Ashigarashimo District in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. As of 2010, the town had an estimated population of 13,339 and a density of 144 persons per km². The total area was 92.82 km².-Geography:...

, and the shrine on Mount Haku
Mount Haku
, or Mount Hakusan, is a potentially active volcano. The stratovolcano is located on the borders of Gifu, Fukui and Ishikawa prefectures in Japan. It is thought to have first been active 300,000 to 400,000 years ago, with the most recent eruption occurring in 1659...

 where the Genpei Jōsuiki
Genpei Josuiki
The , is a 48-book extended version of the Heike Monogatari. -External links:* , University of Virginia Library...

 records that a Zen priest saw a 9-headed dragon transform into the goddess Kannon. In the present day, the Lake Saiko Dragon Shrine at Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi
Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi
is a city located in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, in the center of the Japanese main island of Honshū.-Geography:It is considered a high-elevation city in Japan, at 2,140 to 2,800 feet above sea level. The city is also located between two of the five Fuji Lakes.-Geology:Fujiyoshida was founded on...

 has an annual festival and fireworks show.

Temple names, like Japanese toponyms, frequently involve dragons. For instance, the Rinzai sect has Tenryū-ji
Tenryu-ji
—more formally known as —is the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, located in Susukinobaba-chō, Ukyō Ward, Kyoto, Japan. The temple was founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha, and its first chief priest was Musō Soseki. Construction was...

 天龍寺 "Heavenly Dragon Temple", Ryūtaku-ji
Ryutaku-ji
is a Rinzai Buddhist temple located in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, that was founded by Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku in 1761. During the mid Twentieth century Ryutaku-ji was led by a number of influential Abbots, who encouraged and supported the study of Zen by Westerners...

 龍沢寺 "Dragon Swamp Temple", Ryōan-ji
Ryoan-ji
is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto, Japan. Belonging to the Myoshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism, the temple and karesansui garden is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site....

 竜安寺 "Dragon Peace Temple". According to legend (de Visser 1913:180), when the Hōkō-ji 法興寺 or Asuka-dera
Asuka-dera
', also known as ', is a Buddhist temple in Asuka, Nara. Asuka-dera is regarded as one of the oldest in Japan.-Temple complex:A number of records refer to the origin of the temple, such as the Nihongi and Fusō-ryakuki...

 飛鳥寺 Buddhist temple was dedicated at Nara
Nara, Nara
is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture...

 in 596, "a purple cloud descended from the sky and covered the pagoda as well as the Buddha hall; then the cloud became five-coloured and assumed the shape of a dragon or phoenix".

The Kinryū-no-Mai "Golden Dragon Dance" is an annual Japanese dragon dance
Dragon dance
Dragon dance is a form of traditional dance and performance in Chinese culture. Like the lion dance it is most often seen in festive celebrations. Many Chinese people often use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" as a sign of ethnic identity, as part of a trend started in the 1970s. Another...

 performed at Sensō-ji
Senso-ji
is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo. It is Tokyo's oldest temple, and one of its most significant. Formerly associated with the Tendai sect, it became independent after World War II. Adjacent to the temple is a Shinto shrine, the Asakusa Shrine.- History :The temple is...

, a Buddhist temple in Asakusa
Asakusa
is a district in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan, most famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. There are several other temples in Asakusa, as well as various festivals.- History :...

. The dragon dancers twist and turn within the temple grounds and outside on the streets. According to legend, the Sensō Temple was founded in 628 after two fishermen found a gold statuette of Kannon in the Sumida River
Sumida River
The is a river which flows through Tokyo, Japan. It branches from the Arakawa River at Iwabuchi and flows into Tokyo Bay. Its tributaries include the Kanda and Shakujii rivers....

, at which time golden dragons purportedly ascended into heaven. The Golden Dragon Dance celebrates the temple founding and allegedly provides good fortune and prosperity.

Dragon shrines




Japanese dragons are associated with Shinto shrines as well as Buddhist temples.

Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan...

 on Miyajima or Itsukushima
Itsukushima
is an island in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as , the Shrine Island. The island is one of . Itsukushima is part of the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture...

 Island in Japan's Inland Sea was believed to be the abode of the sea-god Ryūjin's daughter. According to the Gukanshō
Gukansho
is a historical and literary work about the history of Japan. Seven volumes in length, it was composed by Buddhist priest Jien of the Tendai sect c. 1220....

 and The Tale of Heike (Heinrich 1997:74-75), the sea-dragon empowered Emperor Antoku
Emperor Antoku
Emperor Antoku was the 81st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. His reign spanned the years from 1180 through 1185. During this time, the imperial family was involved in a bitter struggle between warring clans...

 to ascend the throne because his father Taira no Kiyomori
Taira no Kiyomori
was a general of the late Heian period of Japan. He established the first samurai-dominated administrative government in the history of Japan.After the death of his father Taira no Tadamori in 1153, Kiyomori assumed control of the Taira clan and ambitiously entered the political realm in which he...

 offered prayers at Itsukushima and declared it his ancestral shrine. When Antoku drowned himself after being defeated in the 1185 Battle of Dan-no-ura
Battle of Dan-no-ura
The ' was a major sea battle of the Genpei War, occurring at Dan-no-ura, in the Shimonoseki Strait off the southern tip of Honshū. On March 24, 1185, the Genji clan fleet, led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune, defeated the Heike clan fleet, during a half-day engagement.The Taira were outnumbered, but...

, he lost the imperial Kusanagi
Kusanagi
is a legendary Japanese sword and one of three Imperial Regalia of Japan. It was originally called but its name was later changed to the more popular Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi .-Legends:...

 sword (which legendarily came from the tail of the Yamata no Orochi] dragon) back into the sea. In another version, divers found the sword, and it is said to be preserved at Atsuta Shrine
Atsuta Shrine
is a Shinto shrine traditionally believed to have been established during the reign of Emperor Keikō located in Atsuta-ku, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture in Japan. The shrine is familiarly known as Atsuta-Sama or simply as Miya...

. The great earthquake of 1185 was attributed to vengeful Heike spirits, specifically the dragon powers of Antoku.

Ryūjin shinkō 竜神信仰 "dragon god faith" is a form of Shinto religious belief that worships dragons as water kami
Kami
is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "deity", some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term...

. It is connected with agricultural rituals, rain prayers, and the success of fisherman.

Dragons in modern culture


Dragons are a familiar motif in Japanese art and architecture, literature
Japanese literature
Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan...

, and popular culture
Japanese popular culture
Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present but also provides a link to the past. Japanese cinema, cuisine, television programs, manga, and music all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation...

. Some alphabetically arranged examples include:
  • Chunichi Dragons
    Chunichi Dragons
    The are a professional baseball team based in Nagoya, the chief city in the Chubu region of Japan. The team is in the Central League. They won the 2007 Japan Series and 2007 Asia Series.-History:...

     are a professional baseball team.
  • Dragon Ball is a manga
    Manga
    Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

     and anime
    Anime
    is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

     metaseries.
  • Dragon Quest
    Dragon Quest
    , published as Dragon Warrior in North America until 2005,Due to the inconsistent usage by sources since Square Enix obtained the naming rights to Dragon Quest in North America. Dragon Quest has been used by sources to refer to games released solely under the Dragon Warrior titles...

     is a popular videogame series.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki
    Kamen Rider Ryuki
    is a Japanese tokusatsu television series. It was the twelfth installment in the Kamen Rider Series of tokusatsu shows. It was a joint collaboration between Ishimori Productions and Toei, and it was shown on TV Asahi from February 3, 2002 to January 19, 2003. The catchphrase for the series is...

     (English Kamen Rider Dragon Knight) is a show in the Kamen Rider Series
    Kamen Rider Series
    The is a metaseries of manga and tokusatsu television programs and films created by manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori. The various Kamen Rider media generally feature a motorcycle-riding superhero with an insect motif who fights supervillains often referred to as...

    .
  • Long is the main villain of the Gekiranger Super Sentai series, americanized in Power Rangers: Jungle Fury
    Power Rangers: Jungle Fury
    Power Rangers Jungle Fury is the sixteenth installment in the American children's television series Power Rangers. Toy merchandising in the U.S. began in November 2007 and the show premiered on February 18, 2008, and uses footage from Juken Sentai Gekiranger, the thirty-first Japanese Super Sentai...

     as Dai Shi and Scorch.
  • King Ghidorah
    King Ghidorah
    is a kaiju, a fictional Japanese monster featured in several of Toho Studios' Godzilla films...

     is a three-headed golden dragon that has taken many forms in the kaiju
    Kaiju
    is a Japanese word that means "strange beast," but often translated in English as "monster". Specifically, it is used to refer to a genre of tokusatsu entertainment....

     films, specifically in the Godzilla
    Godzilla
    is a daikaijū, a Japanese movie monster, first appearing in Ishirō Honda's 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd. The monster has appeared in numerous other media incarnations including video games,...

     series.
  • Manda is a dragon in kaiju films.
  • Nāsu
    Nurse (Ultra monster)
    is a fictional robot from the tokusatsu TV series, Ultra SevenAlien Wild's robot . Nurse appeared in Episodes 11.Subtitle: .- Ultra Seven :His height is around 120 meters tall. He weighs around 150,000 tons....

     ナース is a dragon robot in the Ultraman
    Ultraman
    is Japanese television series that first aired in 1966. Ultraman, the first and best-known of the "Ultra-Crusaders," made his debut in the tokusatsu SF/kaiju/superhero TV series, , a follow-up to the television series Ultra Q...

     series.
  • "Ryū 龍" or "Dragon: the Old Potter's Tale
    Dragon: the Old Potter's Tale
    is a short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. It was first published in a collection of Akutagawa short stories, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū. The story is based on a thirteenth-century Japanese tale, with Akutagawa’s Taishō literary interpretations of modern psychology and the nature of...

    " is a short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
    Ryunosuke Akutagawa
    was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story". He committed suicide at age of 35 through an overdose of barbital.-Early life:...

  • Haku/Kohaku from the film Spirited Away
    Spirited Away
    is a 2001 Japanese animated fantasy-adventure film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. The film tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood and after her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba,...

     is a river spirit whose true form is that of a white dragon.
  • Natsu, the main character of the anime/mangá series Fairy Tail
    Fairy Tail
    is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima. It has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine since August 23, 2006, and has been published by Kodansha in 29 tankōbon volumes . An ongoing anime produced by A-1 Pictures and Satelight was released in Japan on October 12, 2009,...

     was raised by a Dragon, and can use fire for attacks.
  • Breath of Fire IV
    Breath of Fire IV
    Breath of Fire IV, originally released in Japan as is a role-playing video game developed by Capcom, and is the fourth game in the Breath of Fire series. It was originally released for the Sony PlayStation home console in Japan and North America in 2000, and the PAL region in 2001...

     shows a tale of Ryu and Fou-Lu being able to transform into ancient dragons.
  • In Touhou, a dragon is said to be the highest-order god of Gensokyo. Based from Perfect Memento that he lived anywhere and he looks like a serpent with hands and horns.
  • In Monster Hunter Portable 3rd
    Monster Hunter Portable 3rd
    Monster Hunter Freedom 3, also called in Japan is the latest installment in the Monster Hunter franchise for the PlayStation Portable system that was released in Japan on December 1, 2010. The game was released, as a part of the PlayStation Portable Remaster series, on PlayStation 3. The game...

     Amatsumagatsuchi the elder dragon of Sacred Mountain also loosely based on Japanese dragon with three claws and It possess the ability to manipulate storms and wind.
  • Dragon Slayers in Fairy Tail
    Fairy Tail
    is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima. It has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine since August 23, 2006, and has been published by Kodansha in 29 tankōbon volumes . An ongoing anime produced by A-1 Pictures and Satelight was released in Japan on October 12, 2009,...


Other Asian dragons

  • Chinese dragon
    Chinese dragon
    Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs...

  • Druk
    Druk
    The Druk is the "Thunder Dragon" of Bhutanese mythology and a Bhutanese national symbol. A druk appears on the Bhutanese Flag, holding jewels to represent wealth. In the Dzongkha language, Bhutan is called Druk Yul, or Land of Druk, and Bhutanese leaders are called Druk Gyalpo, Dragon Kings...

  • Korean dragon
    Korean dragon
    Korean dragons are legendary creatures in Korean mythology and folklore.The style of the dragon was heavily influenced by the Chinese dragon. Although generally comparable with Chinese dragons in appearance and symbolic significance, Korean dragons have unique culture-specific properties that...

  • Nāga
    Naga
    Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

  • Vietnamese dragon
    Vietnamese dragon
    Vietnamese dragons are symbolic creatures in the folklore and mythology of Vietnam. According to an ancient creation myth, the Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon and a fairy....


Further reading



External links