NIPPONIA No. 45 June 15, 2008
“Japan, the Land of Gold.”
How True Is the Old Legend?
The Travels of Marco Polo, published in the 13th century, describes Japan as “Zipangu, the land of gold.” Unfortunately, that was not true then and is not true now. But gold did play a significant role in Japanese history. And today, the country might be starting to show that Polo may have been at least a tiny bit right.
One of two large shachihoko (mythical creatures with a dragon head and a fish body) on the tower roof ridge of Osaka Castle. Shachihoko were signs of the prestige and authority of the castle lord, and were thought to protect the castle from fire. When covered in gold, it was said, they were doubly effective. (Photo credit: AFLO)