Much of the symbolism of the Japanese dragon has already been described for the dragon with sword tattoo and the face of the dragon tattoo. Even so, this Japanese dragon differs slightly from these others–although to the untrained eye, one large Japanese tattoo seems like another.
This dragon has its mouth closed, in a less aggressive stance. It also clutches in one of his claws an object that is variously shown as a ball, a pearl, or a jewel. This item is essentially the closed-lotus form seen in various Buddhist designs including temples and grave markers. It represents the spiritual essence of the universe, by which the dragon controls the winds, rains, and even the movement of the planets, and he protects it from those who might usurp those powers.