immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)






Teaching Resources

Akakura Mountain Shrine

Sacred Beings

The Dragon (Ryujinsama)

See Immortal Wishes, pp.113-18

As in many sites throughout East Asia, dragon symbolism is highly developed in the Akakura Mountain Shrine system.

Ascetics undertaking shugyo (ascetic discipline) at times report revelatory visions and dreams of dragons on the mountain slopes.

Representations of dragons at Akakura include:

The shrine foundress is believed to have been called to the service of the mountain divinity Akakura Daigongen through a repeated revelatory dream of a dragon emerging out of the summit. This image, of the dragon flying across the night sky, is depicted in the important shrine painting of the dragon that hangs above the entrance to the Shindn inner sanctuary

Throughout Japan, dragons have intimate associations with water; they may reside in undersea palaces and help bring rain. The ritual year at Akakura begins with the ritual of the Dragon Princess' water in the Mieido subshrine, in which the sacred water of the kami is blessed and purified by the most dedicated worshippers.  
A small subshrine next to the Honden (kami sanctuary) in the rear of the shrine complex is dedicated to the dragon divininity (Ryujin).
A sculpture of a dragon wrapped around a pillar, in front of the Shinden.
A sculpture of a dragon's head is located in front of the main entrance to the Shinden
Numerous paintings in the Shinden depict dragons. One shows a dragon coiling through the cosmos.
Another painting depicts two dragons intertwined in the cosmos  
One painting depicts a flying dragon above the head of Kobo Daishi
In an important painting of the Fudo waterfall, two dragons are shown cavorting at the topic of the Akakura Gorge


Internet Resources on Dragons in Japan

Japanese Buddhist Corner: Ryujin



Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)