The Japanese dragon

The Japanese dragon is an incredible and impressive creature which is emblematic of Japan and which is very different from the classic dragon that we are used to see in the western world.

Japanese dragons have an important place in Japanese folklore, indeed many legends tell us about this huge beast.

In Japan the Japanese dragons are called tatsu or ryu. A Japanese dragon is in fact a kind of serpentine creature (its body looks like a snake) without wings (but can still fly) with short clawed legs.

dragon japonais

There are multiple Japanese dragons, such as ryojin which is a dragon that rules the ocean. The Japanese dragon is often considered as one of the guardians of Buddhism or the guardian of the four cosmic directions. There are indeed many stories where dragons appear for better or worse…

These dragons would have supernatural powers such as metamorphosis, lengthening his body thanks to a rare pearl hidden in their throats. Surely sought by humans for its rarity and its supernatural effects…

According to the myths, the dragon is not born a dragon, it is first a snake and then transforms into a carp, and a few centuries later it develops completely into a Japanese dragon. A long transformation full of steps

Origin of the Japanese dragon

According to the Shinto religion, this dragon comes from the legends of the genesis of the universe, after the creation of the sky and the earth, 7 generations of kami (gods) were born. The dragons were thus born with other specimens to be able to protect the gods as celestial guardians.

The number 7 is often repeated in the legends and even in the biblical genesis, it is a sacred number.

Symbolism of a Japanese dragon

This dragon embodies power and wisdom! It is considered as a sign of good omen and would bring happiness as well as wealth, immortality in the folklore spirit of the Japanese. It is often tattooed by the yakuzas of Shibuya district. 

The story of Watatsumi also nicknamed Ryojin

dragon japonais

Watastumi, also called Ryojin, is considered the “god of the sea” in Japanese folklore. According to the legend, this dragon lived in an underwater palace with his daughters called Ryugo-jo where he welcomed the humans who were lost in the palace. He is also said to control the sea creatures with magic jewels.

He is considered as one of the ancestors of the Japanese imperial dynasty.

One day a man (Hoori) was fishing with his brother on a relatively small boat. He tried to catch a hook in the sea that his brother had inadvertently dropped, but while trying he fell into the water and ended up on one of Ryojin’s daughters by chance, he decided to marry her.

Three years later he got tired of the Ryugo-jo palace and wanted to go back to the surface. But, he was afraid to see his brother again without even having managed to recover the hook for three years. Otohime’s father, who was Hoori’s wife, ordered all the fish to look for the hook in the sea. One of the fish found the famous hook and Hoori went to live on land with his wife Otohime to find his brother and give him back the hook.

Legend has it that he even used a wani to surface, one of the many species of aquatic dragons in Japanese mythology.

For fans of One Piece we can see that Oda was inspired by this legend in his One Piece universe (the world of the fishmen).

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