Seven Lucky Gods of Japan: Shichi Fukujin

Shichi Fukujin - From left to right: Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Daikokuten, Ebisu.

Shichi Fukujin – From left to right: Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Daikokuten, Ebisu.

I often think that we learn much from the beliefs of other cultures.  I think it is a wonderful thought to have a large group of gods whose job is to manage luck. They called “happiness beings
七福神 Shichi Fukujin. 

Most Americans have probably seen Hotei, the big-bellied happy god. That’s pretty much the American dream…to be fat and happy. They apparently do everything together, even making food. At New Years, they ride on a dragon to bring presents and good luck. There are many images of them, even hello kitty representations. I just have to smile, because they do their job so well.

Seven happiness beings making rice cake Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900

Seven happiness beings making rice cake Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900

Benten By Gakutei Yashima 1786-1868

Benten By Gakutei Yashima 1786-1868

From  Dieter Wanczura’s website on Japanese Mythology, here are their names with their domains.

Benten

The Goddess of luck, love, eloquence, wisdom and the fine arts. Benten is the patron of the geishas and the art folks. She is shown with eight arms riding on a dragon.

Bishamon

Bishamon is the patron of the warriors. Therefore he is shown in full armor with a spear in his hand. In one of the pictures below, his other hand is a pen. Apparently both are seen as weapons in Japan too.

Daikoku

He is the god of wealth and the patron of the farmers. His attributes are a sack of rice and rats and he is shown as a fat man (for prosperity and wealth).

Hotei and Ebisu By Yoshitora Utagawa

Hotei and Ebisu By Yoshitora Utagawa

Ebisu

Ebisu is the son of Daikoku and the patron of the fishermen. He is shown with a huge carp and a rod for fishing. He was worshipped by the fishermen and had a temple in the coastal region near Osaka.

Hotei

Like Daikoku, he stands for wealth. But he is also the god of laughter and happiness by being content with what you have. He is depicted as a laughing fat man with a bag of rice over his shoulders and kids. On some pictures, he is shown sitting in a cart drawn by children.

Fukurokuju

The god of wisdom, good luck and longevity. He is shown with a very high forehead. Mostly he is accompanied with a stag, a symbol of longevity, sometimes by a tortoise and a crane.

The Seven Lucky Gods in a woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The Seven Lucky Gods in a woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Jurojin

The god of longevity and happiness in your old days. The attributes in his company are a tortoise and a crane. And he is depicted with a smile on his face. Another happy old man!

Yoshitoshi_The_Seven_Lucky_Gods

The Seven Lucky Gods, in an 1882 woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

I think it is very interesting that only one of these deities  is female. It makes me wonder if she is Wendy to the lost boy gods? I did n’t find any stories of them, but I will start looking, as they are just the kind of deitites I’d like to know more about. How about you?

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10 Responses to Seven Lucky Gods of Japan: Shichi Fukujin

  1. Barb Sibbing says:

    Loved the article and the pictures helped pull it all together so not only could we see through your words but through the pictures as well.

  2. I definitely don’t know very much about the Japanese Deities, but based on the images you included it looks like there are likely some pretty entertaining stories told about the Seven Lucky Gods. I think it is great to imagine stories about luck, love, wealth, happiness, joy, health, longevity and wisdom and to bring all of those things into each day as much as possible. I agree that we can learn a lot from other cultures. I wonder if the prominence of male deities comes from the Japanese having more respect for men.

    I enjoyed your post. Thanks for giving me something to ponder!

    • I read on one page that only one of these is originally Japanese, and that others were assimilated. Benten is another face of the Indian Goddess Saravati. But I think that, much as happened in other ancient cultures, roles played by goddesses were masculinized, or new heroes were elevated to god status and then married to goddesses. You might find Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman interesting reading.

  3. Kathy says:

    Very interesting article. Really loved all the pictures too. I tend to believe more in fate than luck. I am not very lucky. LOL Visiting from the Ultimate Blogging Challenge!

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

  4. Oh wow, I had no idea they had names! I’ve seen many of these images before. Love this unique post!

    • I’m learning a lot about various things with these random posts. It does make me happy just to think about them, and I plan to print out one of the many pictures I found to remind myself to choose to be happy. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. RUBBING TRADITIONAnother equally curious tradition still widely practiced in Japan is that of rubbing Daikoku or Hotei . When visiting temples that enshrine statues of the seven deities, visitors often rub the head / shoulders of Daikoku (the god of wealth and business prosperity). Doing so is said to bring wealth – which rubs off the statue onto the rubber. Photo at right shows life-size wooden Daikoku statue at Hase Dera in Kamakura — the sign at his feet says “Rubbing Daikoku — Please Touch” Also, rubbing the stomach of Hotei is said to bring good luck.

  6. Ebisu was the Shinto god of work. The most popular of the seven gods, he was a fisherman, and was fat and cheerful. He was usually shown holding a large fish. Later, he became associated with profit and could bring good luck to commercial ventures. Ebisu was deaf, so he did not join the other gods for the Shinto festival at Izumo which takes place in October. Instead, his festival was held in his own temple.

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