January 09, 2012

Lying Dragon and Swimming Dragon

2012 is the year of the dragon.  Each year has each animal name based on  the twelve animal zodiac signs introduced from China. The twelve animals are mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and wild boar. I wonder why the eleven animals are real, but only the dragon is imaginary.

These are some of New Year's cards sent by my friends. Which dragon do you like?

Dragons in Japan are divine. They are the deities of water which gather clouds and give blessed  rain to farmers. They never breathe out fire  like many of the dragons in western countries nor are doomed to be vanquished by dragon slayers. Also a green or blue dragon is a directional guardian of east .

 In the grounds of a temple or a shrine, there is a dragon on a water basin. 
Water is pouring out of the mouth, and people wash their hands and rinse their mouths 
to purify themselves before praying.

There are many objects whose names have the Chinese character "龍" meaning a dragon in them.  Especially many of the temples and ponds  contain 龍 or dragon  in their names.
 This is a pond in Shugakuin Imperial Villa in Kyoto.  The island in the pond looks like a swimming dragon. So this pond is called Yokuryu-chi pond "浴龍池"meaning "Swimming Dragon" pond.

It is believed that  people have different destiny and character according to what year of  the animal sign they were born in. The people who were born in the year of the dragon, are said to be very assertive, idealistic, proud, intelligent and have strong  belief, and more. Do you believe it? If you were born in 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928, 1916・・・・・, you are the person of the dragon sign.

On 7th January,  I went to a botanical garden in Kasuga Grand Shrine to pay homage to the tree nicknamed  Garyuu"臥龍" which means "Lying Dragon".  The tree is a  gigantic Ichii-gashi ( a kind of an oak tree) on a small island in a pond of the botanical garden.

The tree was blown down by the heavy wind, but  it never gave up growing.  For me it looks like it has a strong will to live. With the lying trunk covered with moss, it has continued to grow up to the sky.  As the shape of the tree looks like the lying dragon, people have called the tree "lying Dragon" oak. This tree is also a guardian of the garden. I am always amazed with this powerful energy of the tree and look at it with awe.  No wonder, people see the divinity in the tree.

It was a fair winter day. I walked around the garden where there was  no visitors but me. The garden was only for me!

Let's walk for a while.

In the pond, there are a lot of Koi carps which usually beg food noisily,
but now they are very quiet. They are half-hibernating.

Dry leaves look like butterflies!
An auspicious mushroom.

Ornamental cabbages  look like peony flowers. They are popular as New Year's decorations along with bamboo, pine and Japanese apricot. 

Melia azedarac.  I love their delicate purple flowers in May as well as their fruits in winter.
On the left Melia azedarach flowers are in full bloom.( Photo was taken in May, 2011)

Oh, harbingers of spring!


Fruits of Rosa multiflora

My related blog to this botanical garden :
                       Paradise Flowers Come Out of 2000-Year Sleep.

Near the botanical garden is a Japanese restaurant where I ate lunch. This is rice porridge cooked with seven wild herbs of spring.  We eat the rice porridge with seven spring herbs to give a rest to the stomach as well as pray for our health on January 7th. We ate a lot of delicious food and rice cakes during New Year's holidays. So, the stomach is tired.

Falkor, the luckdragon with Bastian on the back appears in the sky!

A cup of cappuccino has a  dragon.


  1. Your photos are always so full of beauty and grace. They bring me a lot of joy. I hope the New Year is treating you well. Joyful

  2. I love your informative post and lovely shots. Thank you, dear.

  3. Another beautiful, wonderful post,Keiko. You have no idea how much I look forward to your blog. The images are so beautiful. Very nice to learn of the importance of the dragon in your country.

  4. Hi,Snowwhite.





  5. Happy New Year, Keiko! I've learned something new today - I didn't know that Japanese Dragons served the purpose of bringing water. I love the old Oak tree - so beautiful and strong. Thanks for another beautiful post.

  6. とても、きれいな写真ですね。最後のカプチーノのドラゴンはいいです。幸運がきそうで楽しげになります。

  7. Hi, snowwhite! This is another great post consisting of interesing informative tit-bits of the New Year, the Dragon, and the Manyo Botanical Gardens. I like to see wonders of nature through your photography. My favorites are half-hibernating carp and dragon-clouds. I saw dragon flying in the sunset sky, unfortunately I had no camera with me then. Wish you a healthy and restful year.

  8. Happy New Year to you!
    I love your walks around gardens...always learn so much. The photos using bokeh in the background are my favorites! So pretty! And that cappuccino is such a crafty drink...that is talent!
    I hope you have a wonderful year in 2012 :D

  9. Dear Snowhite,
    I am your calendar as a buffalo. The dragon is a magical animal, on our land we relate with love. I think it's great that this year is the dragon.
    ! And I think the cloud of magical ending story! There Bastian passing over dragon.
    Your otos are still beautiful, as always.
    A hug,

  10. 興味あるお話しとても楽しめました。
    ほんと龍だけが、想像上のいきもものですね。なんだか、snowwhite さんの楽しく美しい写真を見た方々だけに幸運が訪れそうな気がしてきましたよ 川*'-')フフ♪ 素敵なお庭をありがとう。

  11. Beautiful pictures, your flower shots are wonderful. Thank you for the information on the dragon. Happy New Year.

  12. What a lovely set of photos and interesting post. I like the dragon cappuchino.

  13. Hello Keiko, I once published a children's story about the different dragons - East & West. It would seem auspicious to be born under the mystical dragon symbol. Alas, I was not. Your photos of the garden walk are stunning. My favorites are the koi & the cotton. I would love to sip a cup of cappuccino with you, Keiko, but since distance prohibits, I'll wish you instead a healthy 2012!

  14. Hi Keiko

    fortunately I have dragon energy and temperament...thank you for letting me know why I am so feisty...

    This is a lovely post with beautiful shots, the cappuccino artist is very clever...

    What accompanied the porridge soup for lunch?

  15. Happy New Year!
    I like the blue dragon among New Year's cards. Is this a engraving or made by PC? Artistic if it's a engraving.
    The dragon on water basin is amusing,especially arms and talons like a dinosaur.
    The 6th photo is nice for carps are below.

  16. Happy new year! I love the blue dragon coz he looks like he is having fun playing. And your cappuchino - I have never seen a dragon - hearts or flowers, but dragon?

  17. Red Rose,

    How nice it is that dragon is related to love in your land!

    I want to read your book on different drafons -East & West!!

    I wish there were the year of the cat as i have a cat nature.

    The blue dragon is wood-block print. My friend has made block-print cards for decades. I have not such a talent, sigh・・・

    The cafe is pleasing us by puting seasonal decoration on cuppuccino.
    In autumn, they drew maples on it.

    Thanks a lot for visiting and leaving your delightful comments.

  18. I always look forward to your posts! They are so very beautiful.

    What gorgeous shots of flowers, plants and especially that lovely pond.

  19. Hello Snowwhite,
    I am so please to have found your blog and to read your post about the Year of the Dragon! The cards are lovely and it's interesting that you send animal cards each year!
    I'm an illustrator and I was commissioned to paint a dragon picture with a monkey and a rat for 2012!
    If you would like to see the illustration it is shown on my blog post last November.
    I always feel that in Japan you have the best gardens, plants and trees. I love the dragon sculpture on the water basin too. He has a wonderful face!

    New Year blessings to you. I am now following your magical blog.
    Jo May.

  20. Happy New Year, Snowwhite!

    Oh, Falkor! I read Never Ending Story in childhood so many times. Now I finally saw that dragon ^_~

  21. ほんとにどうして竜が12支にはいっているのか不思議ですね。猫は13番目だったから、除外されてしまったらしいですね。惜しかったですね。


  22. The beginning of your post made me think of the dragon in The Never-Ending Story, and I was going to ask if you read that book... Before I got to the end I understand that you do know that story... Wonderful photo of the cloud-dragon! As usual a both lovely and informative post!

  23. I am a Dragon, actually a Metal Dragon – I was born in one of those years. My husband is an Earth Tiger. I did not know that 2012 was a year of Dragon – but it is the Water Dragon.
    I so enjoyed your walk in the park and all the lovely photos. The year is starting well.

  24. I noticed this post just now, a little late, but nothing is too late, I want to think. I saw dragon shaped cloud by accident recently, though yours and your capture is amazingly beautiful.

  25. Dawn Trader,
    Sometimes I had thought that dragons in east and dragons in west were different creatures, but only were called in the same name, “dragon. But when I watched the movie “Never-Ending Story”, I met Falkor, lucky dragon which had no wings and the shape of the dragon in Japan or Asia. I realized I should not have pigeonholed anything easily. I also like the theme music of the movie.

    A dragon flies and travels anywhere. I think it is the most suitable animal sign for you.

    It is hard to see that there is a round rainbow cloud on the right edge in the photo of the dragon cloud. The cloud seemed me to be the sacred gem which the dragon holds by its claws. But this cloud disappeared so instantly that I could not catch it well. Sigh, sigh, sigh.

  26. Cosmos,

  27. Thanks for the inspiration, such great photos!
    I am beginning to collect
    dragon ponds and lakes here
    Gabi from Okayama

    Dragon Art of Asia

  28. Gabi Greve,
    I have other pictures of Dragon Pond taken in Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto last autumn. Reflections of maple trees on the pond were so beautirul!


  29. joanne Mary,
    Your dragon is stunning. It is great idea to draw a dragon with the animal signs of the couple.

  30. Great post and photos. How long did it take to make that dragon imprint on the top of the cup of cappuccino?

  31. Anthony,
    It takes less one minute to make the dragon imprint as they stencil the dragon on the top of the cappuccino. There are many designs which represent the seasons or popular events, such as cherry flowers, autumn leaves, or a carp streamer for Children's Day.

  32. Thanks for responding...That is still pretty cool (the dragon etching in the coffee) :-)


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko