Raijū2017 by Matthew Meyer


A raijū is the embodiment of lightning into an animal form. They had long, sharp claws and ferocious faces. Generally, they were thought to look like wolves, dogs, tanuki, or even weasels or cats. Far more fanciful forms existed too. Sometimes raijū were said to look like little dogs, but with four rear legs and two tails. Sometimes they were said to look like insects or crustaceans. Others looked like miniature dragons. Even more exotic raijū were said to be chimerical monsters composed of many different animals.

Raijū live in the sky—a world which was totally off limits to humans before the 20th century. Because of this, almost nothing can be said about their true nature or behavior. They ride bolts of lightning to earth when thunder claps, and create mayhem wherever they land. For seemingly no reason at all they attack buildings, starting fires and causing mass destruction.

Long ago, raijū were seen as divine beasts, akin to the thunder gods (raijin). Nothing was known about them except that they were fast, merciless, and deadly. Whenever lightning struck, people believed that a raijū had been sent by the gods to punish them for some reason or another.

Small raijū like burrow into humans’ belly buttons to hide from angry thunder gods. This is the origin of a Japanese superstition which says to cover your belly button when you hear thunder.
Click to select the cover image for this artwork.