The Dragon as a Motif in Japanese Art

The dragon or ryu is probably the most famous of mythical creatures.  It represents the Yang of the universe.  The dragon motif came from western Asia, its origins derived from a snake cult.  Ironically, though represented as a fiery being, the dragon is actually a rain deity associated with water and possesses the power to […]

Twelve Animal Signs of the Japanese/Chinese Oriental Zodiac

The twelve animal signs of the Japanese/Chinese Oriental Zodiac are considered lucky and it is said that ones character and personality can be predicted by one’s sign.

The Hare "Usagi" as a motif in Japanese art

There is an old Chinese/Taoist tale of a hare that resides in the moon and pounds the magic herbs to make the elixir of eternal life. The hare was considered sacred and was believed to live a thousand years–becoming white only when it had reached the end of the first five hundred years. This belief was assimilated by the Japanese who see the hare in the moon pounding mochi or rice cakes instead of magic herbs.

The Iris as a Japanese Motif

It was once believed that iris gave protection from the evil spirits that were abroad on the fifth day of the fifth month, and traditionally boys would bathe with its sword-like leaves on this day. The iris also symbolizes the warrior spirit, and along with the koinobori (flying koi pennants), is displayed on May 5th as part of what was once Tango no Sekku but has now become known as Children’s Day.

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