Today’s yokai is not very famous across Japan, but it is famous locally in Hiroshima, particularly on the island of Itsukushima (also known as Miyajima). Arguably the most famous landmark in Hiroshima (after the atomic bomb dome and peace park), nearly everyone has seen the iconic image of the big torii gate reflected in the shallow waters of the bay.
Ryūtō appears once per year, on New Years day. I painted this image two years ago while viisiting Hiroshima over winter break. I was off by just one day; I happened to be there on New Years Eve, so I just missed the lights by 24 hours. However, even without them the bay is absolutely gorgeous at sunset and at night. I painted the dragon lights out of my own imagination, but the sheer beauty of the scene even with phantom fire was more powerful than any painting can capture.
The lights are supposedly visible from the tiny town in the mountains around the island, and the townspeople gather around to view them. They are a sign that the holy dragon god is happy and healthy and still favors the bay around the island. If you’ve ever seen the amazing beauty of Itsukushima, with its tidal pools and shrine built on top of the water, it is hard to imagine how the dragon god could not be happy.
Click on the picture to read more about ryūtō!