Japanese dragons, or "ryū" (龍), are legendary creatures in Japanese mythology and folklore. They have deep cultural and historical roots in Japan and are often depicted in various forms of art and literature. They differ from their Chinese and Western counterparts in several ways.
Japanese dragons are diverse legendary creatures in Japanese mythology and folklore. Native dragon myths and legends are close to legends from Korea and China. Some parts of Japanese Dragons myths are from India. The style of Japanese dragons is very similar to Chinese Dragons. They are usually shown as large wingless snake-like creatures with large feet that have long claws. Most of the legends and stories have them associated with the sea or lakes or rivers and even rainfall.
These dragons like all Asian dragons are not evil, unlike the mythical dragons found in European dragon tales. The medieval dragons from European folklore are destructive mythical creatures that kill, steal gold and gems and horde these into great treasures.
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.
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.
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.
Physical appearance: Japanese dragons are usually depicted as serpentine creatures with elongated, slender bodies and three claws on each limb. They often have a long, flowing mane and a row of dorsal fins or spikes along their backs. They may also have whiskers and a pearl-like gem under their chins, symbolizing wisdom and the power to control natural elements.
Notable Japanese Dragons:
Dragons in Japanese Culture:
Dragons play a significant role in Japanese culture, appearing in various forms of art, literature, and religious symbolism. They are often depicted in traditional Japanese ink paintings, woodblock prints, and sculptures. In addition, they are a popular subject in Japanese tattoo art, representing strength, wisdom, and protection.
Dragons are also featured in various festivals and events in Japan, such as the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, where large dragon floats parade through the streets to bring good fortune and ward off evil spirits.
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.