Why dragons are good luck charms in Japan


Why dragons immersing into Japanese Culture?

Each country has its own symbolic objects, such as animals and plants, that are considered lucky charms. Japan is no exception to this rule. Especially in Japan, there are many different kinds of lucky charms and objects to be worshipped because the culture differs greatly from place to place, one of them is Dragons. In this article, I would like to introduce the dragon that we has believed to be auspicious in Japanese culture as a whole.

By far, the most famous lucky charm in Japan is the dragon. So why is the dragon considered a lucky charm in Japan? There are quite a wide range of reasons, but here is a list.

  • the source of all energy
  • The dragon is the ascendant form of the carp
  • Ascending dragons mean ascent.
  • Descending dragons bring happiness
  • The blue dragon means youth and symbolizes life force full of potential.
  • The jewel in the hand can grant many wishes.

It is mainly for this reason that we believe that Dragons are auspicious. I will briefly explain each of these interpretations.

1. The source of energy

It is said that dragons have enormous power to levitate their huge bodies in the air and sometimes generate lightning. Japanese people have recognized dragons as “the source of energy” because they possess a dimension of energy that is impossible for humans.

2. Symbolizing success

Carp is one of Japan’s specialties, but in fact, carp were commonplace in old Japan. They were in ponds and swamps, and were quite ordinary. (They are a different species from the Nishikigoi that are sold at very high prices today.) There is a saying in Japan that a dragon is the figure of a carp that has risen to the top of the world and raised its status as a living being.  From the anecdote of an ordinary carp making a tremendous rise to become a dragon that stands at the top of all living things, the dragon came to symbolize success.

3. Rising dragon

This is very easy to understand regardless of national origin or creed.  The dragon is said to be a symbol of ascension because of the way it “ascends” high into the sky. The dragon is a guardian of going upward , not only at work but also in challenging one’s goals.

4. Bringing Happiness from Heaven

In Japan, there is a traditional belief that “heaven” is the realm of the gods. And, we believe that dragons ascend high into the heavens and come down from there to bring happiness from the heavens. Since the heavens are a realm that humans cannot enter, the idea is to worship dragons to receive the blessings of happiness from the heavens.

5. Seiryu (Blue Dragon) is the source of life force

This notion comes from the meanings of Kanji. When expressing the word “Youth” in Kanji, we write like this (hoping your computer shows Kanji) “青春(Blue Spring)”. Youth is a time of vitality, and potential. Seiryu (Blue dragon) is the very symbol of that blueness(=youth) and represents life force.

6. A wish-granting jewel

Some dragons depicted in Japan have a treasure ball in their hands. Dragons use this jewel to cause magical and supernatural power. Japanese people have believed the jewel ball can make any wish come true. In honor of this symbolic jewel, dragons are said to be wish-granters.

Since cultures, customs, and ideas differ from country to country, in some cases it may sound like strange. In addition, Japanese culture has many unique aspects that are difficult to understand from a global perspective. However, the reason why dragons have been appreciated as lucky charms rather than mere guardian deities since ancient times in Japan is because of the above way of thinking and perception.

Traditional Japanese crafts with Dragons

Due to this background, there are ornaments that contain dragons, as well as interior goods with dragon figures on them in Japan. Here are some of them.


vase with dragons


hand fan with dragons



dragons mag cup



wall art dragons



Trivia surrounding the Dragons

I’m going to get pretty geeky here, but here are three types of dragons that are especially revered in Japan.

1. The Four Divine Thought

The concept of the four gods has been actively adopted in Japan since the Heian period (794-1185) for the sake of peace in towns. As the name implies, it is the belief that four gods are worshipped. Genbu in the north, Byakko in the west, Soryu in the east, and Suzaku in the south, and the city of Kyoto is actually protected by this four gods concept. The dragon in this four gods concept is the blue dragon. The belief of the dragon originally came from China.

2. the five elements concept

The five elements concept is based on fire, water, wood, metal, and earth, which create all things. Based on the five elements, there are dragons corresponding to the five colors. The five colors are blue, red, gold, black, and white. To put it succinctly, the dragons of the five elements are those that have one color added to the four sea dragons. In Japan, there is a shrine dedicated to the Five Elements called Tanashi Shrine, and it would be fun to visit it.

3. Kutouryuu Daioh (Nine-head King)

Kutouryuu Daioh is a dragon that is worshipped as Kutouryuu Okami ( Nine-head God)  throughout Japan. Originally, it was a dragon that caused misfortune. But after being vanquished by the Kusanagi Sword held by the mythical Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, the Dragon started to be worshiped and became the God. It is said that the dragon God is especially the lucky charm for luck, money, and marriage. However, Japanese people often see the dragon to be an all-round that can increase all kinds of luck.


I have explained about dragons as a part of Japanese culture so far. How does it compare to the concept in your own country? I believe that there are many cultures around the world that use dragons as a symbol. Knowing the background of the dragon as a symbol will help you understand the cultural aspects of each country better. As a Japanese person, I hope that I can help you become more interested in Japan and learn more about it. I wrote this article with the purpose that it would give you a glimpse into the mentality of the Japanese people through the way why we worship dragons as a lucky charm.

If you would like to know more about Japan, or if you would like me to explain something about our culture, I would be happy to receive your comments. I’m particularly interested in traditional culture and crafts, so I’ll do my best to write about anything related to that!

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