The Japanese Dragon
How to differentiate it from other dragons? From Shenlong, the dragon god of Dragon Ball Z, to the dragon robot of Megaman 2, or even the main character’s name, of the 80’s arcade phenomenon, Street Fighter, the Japanese dragon has been present in every masterpiece of the video games and Japanese animation industries. We could say that no RPG game would be complete without challenging ourselves against one of these wonderful mythological creatures.
At its essence, the Japanese dragon is known by two ways, ryū or tatsu, a huge and fantastic creature, more related to water than fire, due to the relationship of the Japanese archipelago with the ocean and the number of rivers and water channels in the territory. Unlike other dragons belonging to western mythologies, the Japanese dragon has no wings. Its serpentine body is full of scales, with short legs presented with 3 claws and a horned crocodile head. In many classic illustrations, deer skin, cat’s eyes, salamander’s nose, eagle’s claws, paws, lion’s mane, and catfish’s whiskers are featured.
Dragons in Japan are benevolent, representing wisdom and power. They live in lakes, rivers, and oceans, and their ability to fly is attributed to magic, so they took over clouds and storms. There are 6 types of Japanese dragon in popular culture: The Han riu, or striped dragon, can be about 2 kilometers long, but does not possess the ability to fly. The Ka-Riu, or small dragon, is the smallest, with a length of up to 2 meters, but it is rabid and violent, and is usually red in color. The Hai-Riu, or feathered dragon, is a mixture of a bird and a reptile, and is considered to be a highly evolved creature, medium in size up to 30 meters in length. The Sui Riu, or Rain Dragon, rules over storms and clouds, and is possibly the most revered creature by the Japanese people. The Fuku-riu, or dragon of fortune, is associated with Good luck and money. Its pearl color is very attractive, however it is a weak and practically defenseless creature. Lastly, Ri Riu, of which little is known, but is said to have the most powerful vision of all, and is associated with fate and love. No matter what kind of dragon you look at, in Japanese culture you will find a deep admiration for them and infinite legends that came to life in Ancient literature, and that would later become an important part of cinema, video games, cartoons and Japanese pop culture in general.