Watatsumi 綿津見 the Dragon God of the Sea

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watatsumi no Kami

articolo in italiano



Watatsumi is a Kami deity of the Shinto religion with many names as we will see, but in general it is considered the sea dragon God, for this reason in many legends it takes the name of Ryūjin. Let's see how we find this divinity in many legends, temples and architecture within Japan.

Watatsumi 綿津見  is one of those Japanese deities who may have different names depending on the source to which we refer. Sometimes it is also called Ōwatatsumi-no-Kami as reported in Kojiki while Watatsumi-Sanjin is the name mentioned in Nihon-Shoki.


watatsumi no Kami


Numerous legends can be traced back to the figure of Watatsumi, some of which are reported below. For example in Nihon-Shoki it is mentioned that Jingū Kōgō the Empress [wife of Chūai-Tennō (192-200) who de facto reigned until 269 when her son Ōjin-Tennō (270-310) ascended the throne] succeeded in undertaking to conquer the Shinra peninsula thanks to the help of the legacy of Watatsumi (according to legend the Imperial Dynasty descendants of the Kami, they possessed the two spheres of the sea dragon God).

Anoter legend said that in an attempt to conquer the Silla (the ancient Korean peninsula) during the battle, Jingū Kōgō threw the sphere called Shihohirutama 塩 乾 in into the sea due to the low tide that blocked the enemy ships and forced the sailors to go down with the tides completely withdrawn, the Shihomitsutama 塩 盈 珠 was thrown overboard for the high tide which, by raising the tide, overwhelmed everyone leading to the victory of the Empress fleet (in some versions the name of the magic spheres becomes Kanju for the withdrawal of the tides, while for rising tides the name was Manju).


sfere del drago


In some legends the name of Watatsumi becomes Ryūjin as in the fairy tale of Saru-no-ikigimo where it is said that the dragon god of the sea sends an umigame (sea turtle) to the mainland to capture a saru (monkey) because he need the liver this' last, but can not get it due to an interference of the kurage (jellyfish) which naively warns the saru of the danger (in a variant sends the same kurage on the island of the apes), in the end Ryūjin punishes the kurage by depriving it of its shell and bones and banishing it from the Ryūgū-jō.

While in the most famous legend of all Ryūjin sends an umigame to the mainland to invite Urashima Tarō to spend time in the Ryūgū-jō to thank him for saving a marine creature. Subsequently, the dragon god of the sea gives a gift to the protagonist of a tamatebako that contains time, in fact when Urashima Tarō leaves the Ryūgū-jō and returns home he discovers that much more time has passed in his world than he believed finding everything changed and when discouraged he goes to the beach and opens the tamatebako suddenly becomes old (while in another version he dies suddenly for the old woman).


ureshima taro


Several jinja were consecrated in Watatsumi including Daikai-jinja at Tarumi-ku (one of the 9 wards of Kobe-shi) in Hyōgo-ken but also Watatsumi-jinja at Sumiyoshi-ku (one of the 24 wards of akasaka-shi) in Osaka-fu.

In modern architecture the style of Ryūgū-jō is repeated in many structures, the most famous of all is undoubtedly 「Katase-Enoshima-eki」 (the railway station) which is located at Fujisawa-shi in Kanagawa-ken, as well as for the 「Ryūgū-jō Hoteru Mikazuki」 a 4-star hotel located in Kisarazu-shi in Chiba-ken where its SPA is completely inspired by Watatsumi's residence. The same is true of a ship owned by the 「Shima marinrejā kabushikigaisha」 a shipping company based in Toba-shi in Mie-ken that has a boat in its fleet that recalls the Ryūgū-jō. Finally, there are also some public toilets that can be found at Takuma-chō in Kagawa-ken whose architectural aspect is reminiscent of the legendary residence of Ryūjin.

By now you will have learned to know him :), to know his styles, the topics. This article that introduces you to a figure of Japanese mythology that few know is an article by Paolo Napolitano who shared his knowledge with us, thanks Paolo :)