To the geographical and historical evidence we have discussed (on the assumption that Japan is a dragon) we can add the more subtle aspects that result from applying to its anatomy concepts coming from the Eastern spiritual traditions.
In the Chinese alchemical tradition, the body contains three main energy centers called “dantien” (literally cinnabar fields). The bottom is in the belly (Japanese “hara”), the intermediate is in the heart, and the upper is in the head. These three centers regulate the volitional, emotional and intellectual aspects respectively. (The aseptic forensic anatomy would say that all you can find in these places are the adrenal, thymus and pituitary glands.) The aim of the alchemists is to recognize and control these centers to gain access to their true nature, manifested through a deep mystical union, a sense of universal love, and the possibility of having extracorporeal trips.
The lower dantien (the center of gravity of the dragon) coincides with the most sacred mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji, a cone that has become the icon of perfection and serenity. The dantien of the heart would coincide with the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara. The most sacred Shinto shrine is also there, in Ise, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu, revered by her candor and compassion, traits of the heart. Finally, the upper dantien coincides with Kyushu island (dragon’s head), where contacts with the civilizations of continental Asia have been common throughout Japanese history, the way Confucianism and later Buddhism arrived to the archipelago; philosophies and analyses about the meaning and ultimate purpose of life entirely relevant and appropriate to the abilities that belong to the head.
While all this neat description came just in a moment, what really convinced me to be on something more than a spin-off of my imagination was the last of the findings, that which came after watching Kobo Daishi’s image on a wall of my apartment. What could be Shikoku island over there, floating on the dragon’s chest? Eureka! The last piece of the puzzle found accommodation with smoothness and precision in the final photo: Asian dragons always protect a pearl!
Shikoku must be, therefore, the pearl of the dragon! No wonder Shikoku was the birthplace of Kobo Daishi, the medieval mystic who sensed its quality of cosmic mandala and decided to establish on it the famous pilgrimage of the eighty-eight temples.