Japanese dragons are diverse legendary creatures in Japanese mythology and folklore. Native dragon myths and legends have many imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large snakelike creatures that are wingless with clawed feet.
Physical descriptions of these dragons are similar to the Chinese and Korean dragons except for some slight differences. The Japanese dragons have three claws instead of four and they do not always have wings.
For the most part these creatures are thought to be kind and the bringer of good fortune. An exception to this, comes from a Japanese legend that tells of a dragon king that has scales and a flicking tongue. He was very destructive and brought chaos wherever he went. He would invade villages and devour innocent children. He was held in check by the goddess of love, Benten. She charmed him with words of love. She said that she would marry him and be with him always if he would promise to end his wrath against mankind.
On the Pacific coast of Japan a great temple was built at Kamakura to celebrate the occasion of Benten saving the area from his wrath.
These dragons like all Asian dragons and unlike the mythical dragons found in European dragon tales are not evil. The medieval dragons from European folklore are destructive mythical creatures that kill, steal gold and gems and horde these into great treasures.
The dragon images in Japan are considered to be bringers of wealth and good fortune. According to legends they are believed to be capable of taking the shape of humans and is may even be capable of mating with humans. The age-old enemy of the dragon is the phoenix and sometimes a bird-man creature called Karura.
Shinto, a traditional Japanese religion, , tells of a kingdom of serpent people under the sea. This kingdom is ruled by the Dragon King, Ryu-wo. He lives in a spectacular palace of crystal and coral. The legend states that he has a human body, and a serpent entwined in his crown. Known for his nobility and wisdom, Ryu-wo was a guardian of the Shinto faith. People who have fallen into the sea are said to have lived on in the kingdom of Ryu-wo.