One night, the suffocating heat of midsummer did not let me fall asleep. I got up and rested my eyes on a map of Japan I had pinned on the wall of my apartment in Nagoya and then turned my head to look at the other wall. I stared at an image of Kobo Daishi (a medieval Buddhist monk very revered in Japan) dressed as a pilgrim.

My thoughts stopped.

I looked again at the map. I could not believe it! My mind had processed something that my intellect was unable to accept. It was a great discovery not within the reach of most people (except children, of course).

Among the creatures that inhabit the mythologies of most cultures, there are often formidable beings, hybrids between reptiles and birds, which roam the skies and oceans spitting fire from their mouths. Yes, I’m talking about dragons. I had just discovered that dragons are not fictional beings, they really exist. Where? Right under our noses! We live on dragons. The continents are a group of dragons resting in this blue pond of the universe we call Earth.

Earthquakes are actually dragonquakes!

Nonsense, is quick to judge our swollen left brain hemisphere just before eating up the right one (converted in a raising by modern education), whose last words are, “but it’s true.” Dragons live millions of years and so their movements are very slow—I should say very slow from the human point of view since we live less than what it takes them one breath.

Japan is a baby dragon, hence its remarkable seismic activity.

Would you like to see it? Then open a page with the geography of this country and cock your head to the left (or look at the map above). The island at the left (Kyushu) is its head, the central island (Honshu) is the body, and the island at the right (Hokkaido) is the tail. The string of islands stretching from its mouth are, logically, a breath of fire (that’s why it’s so hot in Okinawa!). The mountain range that runs from one end to another is its powerful spine. In the back of the dragon we can even see its budding wings, and joining the belly are two powerful peninsulas: the muscular hind legs. Amazing, isn’t it?

If so, what is Shikoku, the most sacred island of the archipelago, located on the chest of the dragon? The answer was the insight I had that night while contemplating the picture of Kobo Daishi. I reveal it in Nippon Dragon.