Across Japan, many people believe that if you worship all seven lucky gods you will receive seven blessings and avoid seven misfortunes.
The images of these gods are found in homes, workplaces, shrines, and restaurants, often adorned with flowers, gifts, and written prayers.
Let’s take a look at the seven lucky gods of Japan.
Table of Contents
1. Ebisu (The God of Fishermen, Prosperity, and Luck)
Depicted as a cheerful, plump man, who carries a fishing rod in one of his hands and a red snapper tucked under his arm, Ebisu quickly became known as the god of fishermen.
He is one of the seven lucky gods of Japanese mythology. Ebisu is the patron of prosperity and luck and is often presented wearing a pointed hat, carrying a bag of treasure with him.
Ebisu was born to Izanami and Izanagi – their sixth son. Born with a physical deformity, he was sadly abandoned by his parents in the sea.
Luckily, Ryujin, the deity of the sea, felt sorry for the abandoned Ebisu and raised him as her own.
As he grew up, Ebisu developed into an excellent fisherman and became known as the god of fishermen. He also has associations with luck and prosperity. Many would pray to Ebisu for a good catch or success in their business ventures.
To this day, Ebisu continues to be an important figure in Japanese culture and is admired by many as a symbol of prosperity and success.
2. Daikokuten (The God of Wealth, Agriculture, and Commerce)
Daikokuten is a close associate of Ebisu and is associated with wealth, good fortune, and abundance.
Daikokuten and Ebisu are often shown together, showing the close relationship between prosperity in both agriculture and commerce. Daikokuten is considered one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichiffukujin) and is often depicted as a jolly, plump figure with a wide-eyed expression who carries a sack of treasure over his shoulder.
Daikikuten also carries a lucky hammer or mallet, called a uchide or kozuchi, and it was believed he had the power to bring prosperity to people and grant wishes. He is recognized as being the god of commerce, the kitchen, and agriculture.
It is believed that Daikokuten derived from the Indian deity, Mahakala, who was a stern form of the god Shiva. Business owners, farmers, and merchants often pray to Daikokuten for wealth and abundance. His image is often seen near the doorway of shops and restaurants to invite good luck into the premises.
It is said that when Daikokuten strikes the ground with his mallet, wealth and treasures appear. Daikokuten’s origin can be traced back to the times of ancient Buddhism and Hinduism.
3. Bishamonten (The God of Warriors, Protection, and Defense)
Bishamonten is celebrated as the god of wealth, protection, and warriors. He is often shown wearing full armor, holding a pagoda and a spear. His image is one of strength and power.
His origins can be traced back to Hindu mythology, where he was known by Vaiśravaṇaand was a yaksha (nature spirit) and a guardian of the northern direction. Vaiśravaṇa’s character transformed as Buddhism spread to Japan, merging with Japanese indigenous beliefs, and becoming Bishamonten.
Japanese folklore suggests he was one of the four heavenly kings and a protector of Buddhism. Each heavenly king was responsible for one of the cardinal directions, Vaiśravaṇa (Bishamonten) was linked to the north.
The other three kings were:
- Virūḍhaka: The guardian of the south with associations with fire and responsible for protecting people from evil spirits.
- Virūpākṣa: The guardian of the West. Possesses the divine eye which allows him to see great distances.
- Dhṛtarāṣṭra: Guardian of the East. Often depicted playing a stringed instrument.
Bishamonten was particularly known for his position of guardian deity and protector of the Buddhist faith.
It was believed he defended the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha) and gave great prosperity and success to his devotees. Many people pray to Bishamonten for good luck in business, good fortune, and protection from evil spirits.
As well as having a tough warrior-like exterior, it is believed Bishamonten has healing powers and can cure illnesses and protect against epidemics. As a result of said powers, he is often invoked for good health and well-being.
His tough appearance makes him a respected figure among those seeking success, good fortune, and safety.
4. Benzaiten (The Goddess of Music, Art, and Knowledge)
Benzaiten is a goddess of everything that flows, including rivers, lakes, and the ocean. She is also known by Benten or Benzaitennyo and is one of the Japanese Seven Lucky Gods.
She is known as a beautiful goddess, with many arms, each holding a different symbolic item, including:
- A biwa: A traditional Japanese musical instrument, symbolizing her connection to the arts.
- A jewel: Believed to have mystical powers and associations with bringing good fortune.
- A sword: This symbolizes her role as a protector.
- A bow: Symbolizing the ability to overcome obstacles and power.
- A lotus flower: A symbol of purity and enlightenment.
She is sometimes shown with a dragon, which is her messenger, symbolizing her power with water.
Benzaiten has roots in Indian mythology. Originally, she was the Hindu goddess Saraswati, with associations with arts, learning, and music. As Buddhism spread from India to Japan, she became more associated with Japanese culture.
Worship of Benzaiten became particularly popular during the Heian period (794-1185) when she was regarded as a patroness of the arts, especially music, and poetry.
Many shrines and temples dedicated to her can be found throughout Japan, with some of the most famous ones located in Enoshima, Kamakura, and Kyoto.
Many people believed that praying to Benzaiten brought good fortune. Offerings would often be left at her shines from people hoping for success in artistic ventures, wealth, education, and love.
5. Fukurokuju (The Goddess of Wisdom and Happiness)
Often depicted as an elderly man with a long white beard and remarkably high forehead, Fukurokuju is a Japanese god associated with wisdom, longevity, and good fortune.
Many believe he is the incarnation of the Taoist god, Xuanwu. His powers are said to be so strong that he can extend others’ lifespans and protect against premature death.
His associations with wisdom and intellectual pursuits mean he is often shown holding a staff and scroll, symbolic of his wisdom.
His name, “Fukurokuju” is derived from the Japanese words for “happiness” “wealth” and “longevity”. The owl is also associated with him, again, another symbol of his deep understanding and wisdom.
His origins date back to Chinese Taoism, and he remains an important figure in Japanese mythology.
6. Hotei (The God of Contentment, Abundance, and Happiness)
Hotei is also known as the Laughing Buddha, a popular figure in Eastern spirituality. Hotei symbolizes abundance, contentment, and happiness. Many people are endeared by his big belly, smiling face, and large earlobes.
He is often shown carrying a cloth bag, it is said that inside the bag he carries many gifts, treasures, and blessings that he gives to those in need.
Followers of Hotei often pursue his blessings for happiness, fulfillment, and success in many aspects of life. Many people will leave offerings for Hotei, burn incense, and pray to him to seek his guidance and blessings.
7. Jurojin (The God of Good Health, Happiness, and Longevity)
Jurojin’s associations are with happiness, good health, and longevity as well as wisdom, protection against illnesses, and overall well-being.
Jurojin is often shown as an old man wearing traditional Japanese attire. Many people offer blessings to Jurojin and pray for a healthy and joyful existence. They hope for good health and wisdom, especially around making hard decisions.
His deep knowledge allowed him to become a patron of scholars, writers, and those wishing to deepen their understanding of the world.
Legend says that Jurojin was a Taoist sage who became immortal due to his honorable actions and his in-depth understanding of the natural world. It is believed he lived during the Tang Dynasty, around the 8th century.
His associations with happiness and joy have brought contentment to many people’s lives across Japan. It is said he can give blessings to people who seek his aid.
Jurojin’s image is commonly found in shrines, household altars, and temples. People often leave offerings for him and say prayers, hoping to receive his blessings.
Final Thoughts on 7 Lucky Gods of Japan
The Seven Lucky Gods have a long history in Japanese folklore. People appreciate the cultural significance attached to these stories and the depictions of jolly, friendly characters make them visually appealing and exciting to discuss.
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