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MCotD: Japanese Dragons

as you may have noticed, Dragon Week was a critical fail. (stoopid job) Thus, we'll pick up where we left off.

the Japanese Dragon!

it is actually quite a challenge to find dragon pictures that are neither fantasy art, tattoos or Chinese dragons

The Japanese dragon, also known as ryū or tatsu, is closely related to the Chinese lóng and the Korean ryong. They are described as having a scowling head, long straight horns, a scaly, wingless serpentine body, a bristling row of dorsal spines, four limbs armed with claws, and curious flamelike appendages on its shoulders and hips, and are associated with large bodies of water, clouds or the heavens. Japanese dragons tend to be much more slender and fly less frequently than the dragons of Vietnam, Korea, or China, which may cause the Japanese dragon to appear particularly serpentine.

The word ‘dragon' stands for a genus of which there are several species and varieties. To describe them in full, and to recount minutely the ideas held by the Japanese rustics concerning them would be to compile an octavo work on dragonology. In the carvings on tombs, temples, dwellings and shops--on the government documents--printed on the old and the new paper money, and stamped on the new coins--in pictures and books, on musical instruments, in high relief on bronzes, and cut in stone, metal and wood,--the dragon (tasu) everywhere "swings the scaly horror of his folded tail," whisks his long mustaches, or glares with his terrible eyes. The dragon is the only animal in modern Japan that wears hairy ornaments on the upper lip.

The ryū in art can generally be distinguished from other East-Asian dragons in that it has only three toes, rather than the lóng's five or the ryong's four. the Ryū originated from China and is one of the four divine beasts of Japanese mythology (the other three being the crimson bird, black turtle and white tiger).

Much like Western Dragons, Japanese dragons originally killed innocent people and forced towns to give them beautiful maidens for food. Dragons in later Japanese folklore were often much more benign, perhaps because of influence from Chinese culture. They appear in famous tales such as My Lord Bag of Rice, in which a hero must kill a giant centipede which is devouring the children of the dragon king of Lake Biwa. In Urashima Tarō, the title character rescues a turtle which turns out to be the daughter of Ryūjin, the dragon king of the ocean.

There are several different types of Japanese dragons:
Tatsu, which are a symbol of the Mikado (title of the emperor of Japan). They are also looked upon as imperial and spiritual power, and they tend to live in lakes and springs.
Sui-Riu is the Japanese Dragon King. The Dragon King was in charge of all the rain, and he was sometimes known as "the rain dragon."
Han-Riu is a multi-striped Dragon. Though the dragon is around (or over) forty feet long, this dragon can never reach heaven.
Ri-Riu, a bit of an unknown dragon, has exceptional eye sight, and can see for 100 miles.
Ka-Riu was one of the smaller dragons, being that the dragon was only seven feet long. It is said, however, that the Ka-Riu was fiery red.
Fuku Riu is a dragon of luck. (Falcor!)
Hai-riyo is a Japanese "Dragon-Bird". Said to be much like the Chinese Ying-Lung, this was the most "evolved" form of a dragon.

The Ryu are also distinguished by their color, such as the violet, the yellow, the green, the red, the white, the black and the flying-dragon. When the white dragon breathes the breath of its lungs goes into the earth and turns to gold. When the violet dragon spits, the spittle becomes balls of pure crystal, of which gems and caskets are made.

The dragons are all very lustful, and approach beasts of every sort. The fruit of a union of one of these monsters with a cow is the kirin; with a swine, an elephant; and with a mare a steed of the finest breed. The female dragon produces at every parturition nine young. The first young dragon sings, and likes all harmonious sounds, hence the tops of Japanese bells are cast in the form of this dragon; the second delights in the sound of musical instruments, hence the koto or horizontal harp, and suzumi, a girl's drum, struck by the fingers, are ornamented with the figure of this dragon; the third is fond of drinking, and likes all stimulating liquors, therefore goblets, and drinking-cups are adorned with representations of this creature; the fourth likes steep and dangerous places, hence gables, towers, and projecting beams of temples and pagodas have carved images of this dragon upon them; the fifth is a great destroyer of living things, fond of killing and bloodshed, therefore swords are decorated with golden figures of this dragon; the sixth loves learning, and delights in literature, hence on the covers and titles of books and literary works are pictures of this creature; the seventh is renowned for its power of hearing; the eighth enjoys sitting, hence the easy chairs are carved in its images; the ninth loves to bear weight, therefore the feet of tables and hibachi are shaped like this creature's feet.

The Circle of the Dragon
Japanese Dragons on wikipedia
Internet Sacred texts Archive