In our travels around this beautiful country, Dave and I have seen several different portrayals of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. I have been intrigued and curious about them. The first time I saw them was when we went to the Mashiko Kyohan Pottery factory. I thought they were so cute that I was tempted to purchase. But, I didn’t and of course regretted it! The next time I saw them was in the stationary store in Yokosuka. Again, I didn’t purchase because although they were very cute, I thought they were too expensive and didn’t want one more thing to have to put on a table or counter.
The third time I saw them, was on the trip to Kappabashi. This time, the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan were displayed on a plaque that could easily hang on the wall. Perfect!
Here is a little background on these adorable and Lucky Gods. Starting on the left and going down.
Ebisu is the God of Fishing, Shipping and Commerce and is the only one to have his origins in Japan. Ebisu represents prosperity and wealth in business. He is the patron of fisherman and Sailors. He is often presented with a fishing rod in his right hand and a large red fish under his left arm. The virtue he represents is Honesty.
Jurōjin is the God of Wisdom. He is depicted as an old man wearing a hat with a long white beard holding a walking staff with a scroll tied to it. He is often confused with Fukurokuju, as both are presented in a very similar way. Frequently, Jurōjin is accompanied by a black deer as symbol of longevity. Jurōjin is the protector of politicians, teachers, scientists, philosophers and mathematicians. The virtue he represents is Wisdom.
Originally, he was a Hindu warrior and once introduced in Japan he became the God of Wealth and Prosperity. He is the patron of farmers and bankers. He is well known for his happy-looking smile and is often presented with a bag on this shoulder filled with money and a golden mallet. The virtue he represents is Fortune.
He originates from Indian Buddhism and is the God of Warriors (not war). He is also a God of Defense Against Evil. He is typically dressed in armor with a fierce look on his face. In one hand he has a weapon to fight against evil influences and suppress the enemies. On the other hand he holds a treasure pagoda. He is the patron of missionaries, priests, soldiers and doctors. The virtue he represents is Dignity.
On the right and going down.
Hotei originates from Chinese beliefs and is the God of Happiness and Abundance. He is the only one of the seven who is supposedly based on an actual person, a Chinese hermit Budaishi (d. 917). He is depicted as a Buddhist monk with a smiling face and a prominent belly. He holds a sack and wooden staff. Outside Japan, he is known as “Laughing Buddha”. The virtue he represents is Happiness.
Benton is the only female and is originally the Hindu goddess of water. In Japanese representation, she is the Goddess of Arts and Knowledge. Her common form is a beautiful woman dressed in a flowing Chinese-style dress. Her attributes include: talent, beauty and music. The instrument she is playing the Japanese biwa. The virtue she represents is Joy.
Fukurokuju originates from China’s Taoist-Buddhist traditions. Fukurokuju is the God of Wealth, Happiness, and Longevity. He typically is depicted with an elongated forehead and long mustache. He is wearing typical clothes of a Chinese scholar and carries a walking stick with a scroll attached. He is the only one from the seven that has the ability to revive the dead. His attributes also include: luck, wealth and happiness. The virtue he represents is Longevity.
I love the portrayal of the Seven Lucky Gods I found. They make me happy and help me feel a little more settled in Japan. At Dave’s suggestion, I’m doing everything to “embrace the experience” of living in Japan!