The 10 most important Japanese dragons
Dragons are mythological creatures deeply rooted in Eastern culture. Some of the most important beings in the legends of the world are the japanese dragons.
Magical beings related to the protection of nature through natural elements such as water or fire.
Despite their fierce appearance, Japanese dragons have a particularity that differentiates them from Chinese dragons and other Asian countries: they are generally good creatures.
Symbol of strength and power, there are still those who believe in their existence, and they are still venerated in multiple shrines across Japan.
Do you want to know more about traditional Japanese dragons? What is their origin and how important are they in Japanese symbolism? We analyze the names of mythological dragons of Japan, what types are there and their characteristics.
Discover the most incredible legends of the Japanese country starring famous dragons, and finally name those beings that usually appear in Japanese anime and manga frequently. You will be amazed!
In this article you will find ...
What are Japanese dragons like?
Dragons have a very important role in Japanese mythology. The history of these beings dates back to the ancient Chinese empire, where thousands of years ago the first figure of this very particular character was created.
If you look closely, Japanese dragons have nothing to do with the concept of dragon that we have in Europe, America and the rest of the world.
While in the West dragons are large winged lizards, Asian dragons have a long snake body covered in shiny scales, crocodile head, cat's eyes, lion's mane, deer horns, long whiskers and eagle claws.
Does this description sound like something to you? The Dragon Shenron from the 'Dragon Ball' series and the dragon Haku from 'Spirited Away' are just some of the most famous examples of Japanese anime that respond to these or similar characteristics.
Japanese dragons are not only capable of spitting fire. Some of them are creators of clouds and rain. Although most do not have wings or fins, they can fly or dive under the sea, moving with great dexterity so that no one can see them.
The dragon has been considered for many centuries as another animal. The belief that dragons exist has been pushed so far in Asian countries that it is one of the twelve chinese zodiac signs.
There are eastern dragons that are evil and vengeful, of course they are. But most are protective beings.
For this reason japanese dragon tattoos are usually one of the most used by both yakuza members, as well as foreigners who love Japanese culture.
Most important dragons in Japan
In Japanese there are several words to refer to this mythological animal. Some are older than others, but each of them refers to a specific type of dragon that can vary depending on the character.
Between the most common words in the Japanese language these stand out with their meaning:
- Tatsu: It is the oldest way to say 'dragon' in Japanese.
- Ryū or Ryo: word derived from Chinese 'long ', which means dragon.
- Naga: comes from the Sanskrit language.
- Dorago: derived from the English word 'dragon'. This is used today to refer to western mythological creatures, not eastern dragons.
To refer to them, the most used word in Japan is Ryū, although the most famous dragons in the country have their own name and it is convenient to know it to address them.
Let's see what are the most important dragon names of the Japanese country. Take note of these famous dragons from Japan!
Known as Yamata-no-Orochi in Japan, this mythological creature corresponds to that of a dragon with snake body divided into 8 heads and 8 tails.
It is one of the oldest beings in Japanese legends, first described in the Shinto writings Kojiki and Hihonshoki, in which he is presented as a deity that lives hidden in the mountain.
This Japanese dragon lives in a region called Tokikami, located in the ancient land of Izumo. Right where the Hi-no-kawa river is born, on a high mountain, it is said that he lives hidden so that no one finds it.
Although its size is similar to that of eight valleys and eight hills, never appears full body. In the Yamata-no-Orochi myth it is an evil dragon that demands the sacrifice of young virgins every year.
In modern times appears in series like 'Kannazuki no Miko', Naruto, in the anime 'Kamisama Hajimemashita', the anime 'Blue Seed', represented as the Pokémon 'Hydreigon' or the Digimon called 'Orochimon'.
It also appears in the card game 'Yu-Gi-Oh', or as an evil character in video games like 'Final Fantasy I', 'Golden Sun II' or 'The King of Fighters'.
Also know as Owatatsumi or Ryojin, is one of the most important Japanese dragons for centuries.
This mythological being is protector of the sea, and although he has a docile character, he can become the most dangerous being when he gets angry.
Ryujin is represented by a dragon with a large mouth that can swallow everything around it. It also has the ability to become human when you want it.
Thousands of years ago he lived in an underwater palace made of red and white corals, decorated with precious gems of great power. The dragon is always surrounded by fish, turtles and jellyfish who are his servants.
According to a Shinto legend, the Japanese Empress Jingu conquered Korea thanks to Ruyjin's magic gems.
Throwing the Kanju gem into the sea caused the tide to go out, leaving the Korean fleet stranded. The soldiers quickly got out of their ships to attack.
Then the empress released the Manju gem causing the tide to rise suddenly, drowning the soldiers. In Memory of this legend, the Gion Matsuri at the Yakasa Temple.
The dragon princess, or Toyotama-hime, is another of the characters of Japanese mythology that protects the seas of all Japan.
She is the daughter of Ryujin, the Shinto God of the seas, and like her father, she can turn into a human at will, represented by a young woman of incredible beauty.
Otohime is married to the god Hoori, son of Konohana and Ninigi, protectors of heaven. The two met one day when Hoori and his brother Hoderi were fishing in the sea, and several hooks fell to the bottom.
The young man went into the water to retrieve them, and while diving he saw Otohime. From the first second they fell in love, and without thinking for a moment, they presented themselves in front of Ryujin to ask for his blessing and get married.
Together they had a son, and just at the time of giving birth, the young woman turned into a dragon, releasing all her power just like her father does.
Mizuchi is a dragon protector of river water. It is somewhat less known than the Japanese sea dragons, but it is mentioned in some ancient legends several centuries old.
Have an elongated snake body, but its size is usually somewhat smaller, since it lives and moves even in the narrowest rivers and streams. Although it is rarely seen, it has always been highly feared.
For this reason, many peasants have been scared by river snakes to which they relate to this being so dangerous.
It is also associated with a poisonous character, which is capable of killing people and pollute the water of the rivers by vomiting their poison into them.
The Mizuchi dragon has its own Chinese representation. He has appeared in manga and anime on multiple occasions, such as the character of Shizuku in the series 'Omamori Himari', represented by a girl with dragon powers.
In video games such as 'Mah-jong Fight Club', 'Monster Hunter 2' or 'Neo Geo Battle Coliseum', it is common to find the figure of Mizuchi like an enemy to beat.
Kiyohime or Kiyo is a character from a very ancient legend. It's about a woman who was cheated on, and turned into a dragon to exact her revenge.
According to the different books that talk about Kiyo's story, this can be a young woman or a widowed older woman, but always with a vengeful character.
The most popular story is that of a rich man's daughter who He ran an inn by the Hidaka River, in the province of Wakayama.
In this inn many monks, like young Anchin, who fell in love with the girl and broke his vows of chastity to have an affair with her.
Nevertheless, the love story lasted very little, and the monk repented, taking up his robes again and fleeing the inn.
The heartbroken girl went after him and found him just as he was about to cross the river. But the girl asked him not to leave, but the monk left and she he jumped into the river turning into a dragon consumed with anger.
He managed to find the monk hiding under the great bell of the Dodo-ji temple, melting it with his fire breath and killing Anchin to take revenge for what he had done to her.
Wani is a monster from Japanese mythology half dragon and half crocodile. In some writings it is described as an animal with the body of a shark. Also called Tatsu or Ryu.
It is also part of Chinese legends such as one of the protectors of the sea, and the most dangerous Japanese dragons for sailors.
Although it is said that the Wani are servants of Ryujin, the king of the sea dragons, among them there is a complex hierarchy in which they occupy the highest positions as rulers of the oceans.
The first writings in which the figure of this type of Japanese dragon appears are the Kojiki and the Nhionshoki.
In fact, the legend of the Wani, as with the crocodiles, considered prehistoric animals, is much earlier than that of other mythological beings.
It is a figure that comes from Chinese and Indian mythsAlthough today the figure of this unique and dangerous dragon is only associated with Japanese culture.
The Nure-onna, or 'soaked woman' in Japanese, it is a figure of Japanese folklore that is halfway between a yokai and a dragon.
It's about a dragon with the head of a woman and the body of a snake, who can change the appearance at will to deceive and kill those who cross his path.
This dragon lives in the water, and can appear on the bank of any river, pond, lake, and even on the beach.
The legend is typical of Tsushima, Nagasaki prefecture, although it has spread throughout the country, and can be found anywhere in Japan.
It is said to have been seen in Nuwa, Ehime Prefecture, and also in the Uwa seas, floating in the water with her cloak of black hair.
According to legend, the Nure-onna he goes to the shore to wash his long hair, and your body is always wet. Get people's attention, and speak with gentle words.
When it laughs, with a thunderous laugh, if you laugh with it, it attacks you by turning into a dragon. Too pretends to be a drowning woman, dragging its victims into the water when they try to save it.
Zennyo Ryuo is known as the rain dragon from Japanese mythology. It is a character of the Buddhist religion, who was invoked in the 9th century by a priest in the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Unlike other Japanese dragons, Zennyo is a caring god, and is in charge of bringing the precious rain for the crops.
This character is very common in Buddhist art. There are many books that mention it within the sacred scriptures, and also in pictures and fresco paintings of many ancient temples.
It is usually represented with human form and dragon tail. Due to his goodness, there are times when he is depicted with a female face and clothes.
Although the exact place where this dragon resides is not known, there are those who associate its home with Mount Muro, and also with Lake Anavatapta.
Both are two locations of great importance within the japanese buddhist culture, where monks from all over the country are going to make pilgrimage to venerate the gods of nature like the rain dragon.
Although Zennyo is considered the rain dragon in Buddhist mythology, Kuraokami, also called Okami, is the Shinto deity of rain and snow.
'Kura' means 'dark' in Japanese, and refers to the rain clouds. For this reason, there are times when this dragon is directly called Okami, when the clouds turn a lighter color if the deity is in a good mood.
In Japanese mythology, it is said that the brothers Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to the islands and the rest of the gods of Japan, but Izanami died during childbirth.
His brother got angry and killed his nephew Kagu-tsuchi, the fire deity that caused Izanami's death, cutting him in 3 pieces from which several dragons emerged, including Kuraokami.
Together with him were created Kurayamatsumi, the dragon of the dark mountain, and Kuramitsuha, the spirit of dark water.
Although there are several legends that speak of these 3 dragon brothers as bloodthirsty creatures, the truth is that the figure of Kuraokami is the most beloved for representing the rain, and revered in many Shinto shrines.
Seiryu - Blue Dragon
The azure dragon, or Seiryu in Japanese, is one of the great protectors of Kyoto city.
As part of Japanese mythology, it is one of the 4 divine monsters, which represent the 4 cardinal points. The one corresponding to Seiryu is the east, also a symbol of spring and the element of water.
It is believed that this Japanese dragon actually comes from Chinese mythology, since its figure is the most similar to that of the classic chinese zodiac dragon.
As a symbol of the imperial city of Kyoto, there are many temples built in its honor in the eastern part, such as in Kiyomizu Dera Temple.
Do you know what the others are guardian spirits of japanese cities along with the azure dragon? In the west is Byakko, the white tiger that symbolizes autumn and the lightning or air element.
In the north Genbu, mix of a black turtle and snake representing the earth element and the winter season. And in the south Suzaku, the vermilion phoenix, whose element is fire and symbolizes summer.
Besides these Japanese dragons, there are many other characters from Japanese culture that are mentioned in multiple stories and legends.
Conclusions and opinions about dragons
Dragons in Japan have great importance as good luck bearers and protectors. Although, as we have already seen, if they are disturbed they can have a very bad character. Better not mess with them!
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