Japanese dragon facts for kids
A Japanese dragon, also known as ryū or tatsu (龍 or 竜, "dragon") is a mythical animal from Japan.
Like other creatures called dragons, the Ryū is a big, fantastic animal that looks similar to a serpent, and is related to the Chinese lóng and the Korean yong. Like all these Asian dragons, it is shown without wings, has legs with claws, and usually lives in the ocean, the clouds, or heavens. Japanese dragons do not fly as often as the Chinese one, which is the reason why they usually appear much more like serpents. The ryū in art has only three toes, instead of the lóng's five or the yong's four.
Japanese dragons usually live in the sea. This is because Japan is an island, and the sea is present in most of its geography.
Ryū originated from China and is one of the four creatures from heavens of Japanese mythology (the other three are the phoenix, turtle and tiger). It has often been the symbol of the Emperor or of a hero.
Dragons in Japanese mythology
In Japanese mythology, one of the first dragons is the Yamata-no-Orochi, a very big serpent with eight heads and eight tails. The serpent ate girls, and it was killed by Susanoo after Susanoo tricked the creature into becoming drunk on sake.
Dragons in later Japanese folklore were often good, perhaps because of influence from Chinese culture. In Urashima Tarō, the main character rescues a turtle which turns out to be the daughter of Ryūjin, the dragon king of the ocean.
Mythic Texts and Folktales:
Images for kids
Japanese sea-dragon, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Japanese dragon, by Hokusai
Princess Tamatori steals the Dragon King's jewel, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
Emperor Antoku's grandmother rescuing him from a dragon, by Yoshitsuya Ichieisai
A dragon ascends towards the heavens with Mount Fuji in the background in this 1897 ukiyo-e print from Ogata Gekkō's Views of Mount Fuji.
Kiyohime Changes from a Dragon into a human woman, by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
The Dragon King's daughter, whose father the Dragon King lives at the bottom of the sea. By Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Susanoo slaying the Yamata no Orochi, by Kuniteru
Dragon teapot, Walters Art Museum
|Mary the Jewess|