Truly one of the most majestic and magical of all the mythical beasts the dragon demands the attention it constantly receives in the world of tattoo designs. Dragon are prevalent design and symbolic elements throughout Asia including Chine and especially Japan. This has lead to a great deal of Japanese and Chinese artwork to use this mythical beasts as a central theme in their tattoo design work.
Dragon tattoos are amazingly flexible and the look, feel, and design choices you make an give a totally different symbolism and feel to the dragon. A fierce fiery red dragon with a red body wrapped around a large samurai sword will symbolize strength and power. Whereas if the dragon where high in the sky flying above some beautiful mountain lake then the design might represent freedom and peacefulness. So the symbolism and what the dragon design portrays is really dependent on the stylistic choices you make when designing the tattoo such as look, feel, location and etc.
The History Of Dragons In Japan
Dragons are one of the most important of all the mythological beats in Japanese culture. The Japanese of course have their own word for the dragon, they call them "Ryu" or "Tatsu". They are typically depicted as very long, skinny and full of scales very similar to a serpent. They also frequently are believed to live around large bodies of water. These creatures are so powerful that they are a god and to be revered. In fact the Japanese believed that their first emperor had descended from a dragon and therefore is partially a god and infallible.
Like many of the east Asian countries dragons have a long tradition in Japanese culture, art, architecture and literature. There are numerous stories, temples and shrines where dragons play a central role.
One can see the long history and importance role that dragons play in the prevalent use of dragons throughout Japan. Today it is very common to see dragon sculptures at alters, temples and other places of worship. Miyajima is probably one of the most famous temples dedicated to the dragon. Miyajima means The Isle Of The Temple and is a popular place for religious pilgrimage, tourists and travelers to come and pray to the dragon god for good luck and good fortune. Another famous spot can be found at the Sonsoji Temple in Asakusa Japan.
Each spring the dragon is taken and paraded around the grounds of the Sensoji temple. During this festival thousands of people come from all over Japan to drop coins into a wooden box as a donation and gift to the temple and an offering to the dragon in hopes that the dragon will give them good luck. This festival is done each spring to commemorate the finding of the gold Kannon, an image of the goddess of mercy. It is believed that in 628 AD two brothers were fishing in the Sumida river at the time they discovered this beautiful statue of the Goddess of Mercy Kanon. At the time they discovered this legend states that gold dragons flew up out of the river and in to the sky to celebrate the discovery.
Followers of both the Taoist and Buddhist religions believe that the dragon can also represent some of the hardships that one must face in their journey towards spiritual enlightenment.
The dragon can also be found throughout Japans great literary works and is a prevalent image. For example there is the famous tale of Yamata-No-Orochi (an eight headed serpent) and Susanoo (the man). Yamata-No-Orochi is an evil beast that devours young women whole. Until Susanoo is able to trick the serpent. He gets the serpent drunk and then is able to successfully kill him.
It is pretty easy to see that dragons are prevalent throughout Japanese culture. You can see statues, architecture and temples all dedicated to the dragon. Tattoo designs are no different and there are thousands of wonderful looking dragon tattoo designs. In terms of location one of the most common places is to get a dragon tattoo on your back. The back makes a great place for a very large tattoo with a lot detail. However if you are not ready or willing to get such a large and detailed tattoo then there are also options for you. Many people today get dragon designs on their shoulder, calf area and a sleeve tattoo design.