Shichifukujin: the Japanese Seven Lucky Gods

2020年 01月13日

As suggested by their names, Shichifukujin are seven gods of fortune originating from the Japanese mythology.
Don't put them at the same level as a simple
Maneki Neko (lucky cat) since they are gods and goddesses. Each of them are inspired by other deities from various religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism ect) but their existence would date back the end of the Muromachi era (1336-1573).

It is believed that if you pray them, you will be spared from seven misfortunes and will be granted seven fortunes. Their worship is also due to the importance of the number 7 in Japan, which is supposedly a bearer of good luck.
Each deity also possesses his or her own particularities:



The one and only god purely originating from Japan and the Shintoism. Son of Izanagi and Izanami, the legend says when he was only three years old, Ebisuten still didn't know how to walk so he would have been left in a boat and sent away. Reaching a port, the child would have been rescued then worshipped by the local fishermen and merchants, hence his specificity.

Ebisu is portrayed as a happy character, holding a fish in his left hand and a fishing rod in his right hand: he is the God of fishing and commercial exchanges. And he is especially revered as the God of business.

He is often associated with the following deity.



The God of luck, he is seen as the incarnation of the hinduist god Shiva.
He would have died once (consequently becoming a Buddha) but would have went back to Earth since he wanted to bring joy to people.

Wearing some kind of cap, bearing a big bag on his back, and with his hammer in his hand, Daikokuten is the God of commerce and wealth.

Daikoku is strangely often portrayed next to the capricious catfish Namazu, whose victims he compensates by giving them some money.



One of the four celestial Buddhist kings, also called Tamon (ten).

Among the Seven Gods of Luck, he is the only one with a seemingly scary appearance of a warrior: stepping on an Amanojaku (bad celestial spirit), he is holding a pagoda in his right hand and a stick with a gem on top in his left, but it can be a spear or a trident too.

Amongst his fellows, he is the God of flexibility bringing success.



Benzaiten is the only goddess of the group.

Initially, she is a water deity in the Hindu religion, but with time she became the Goddess of music and eloquence in Japan. Then, she would have become the Goddess of arts and prosperity, after absorbing the personality of Kichijouten, often seen as her spouse or her double.
She is also revered for her enmusubi power, meaning the power to link a man and a woman to each other.

She is represented as a smart and beautiful woman and she carries a biwa, a Japanese traditional lute-like instrument



You just need to divide his name to know his features: fuku” means happiness in Japanese, roku” means fortune and ju means longevity.

Fukurokujin is also the God of manhood and wisdom, and embodies the Taoist God Nankyokuroujin (literally meaning “the South pole old man”, embodiment of the star Canopus).
This hermit would have spent his life in cities and villages of China, to spread the faith.

His long face, his long beard and his big ears enlight his old age. Apart from the crane or the turtle following him (both animals are a symbol of long life), you can recognise him by the stick decorated with a hanging scroll he leans on and his fan.

Do not mistake him with another old man, who is followed by a deer!



Another old man, who is accompanied by a deer and who is the embodiment of a star too. Juroujin and Fukurokujin are sometimes so similar that some tales assume they are actually living in the same body...
Or Juroujin is simply replaced by Shoujou, some kind of sea spirits with the appearance of an orangutan, with a red face and red hairs and a fondness for alcohol.

Happily, he walks around with a peach in his hand, symbol of longevity and a fan supposedly capable of pushing difficulties away.
Therefore, he is revered as a God of wealth, prosperity and  longévity.



Another bold head belonging to the God of generosity,  fortune and abundance.

Appearing in many religions, Hoteison would be the embodiment of Maitreya, a Buddhist priest before attaining enlightenment.
Always smiling, he carries a bag on his shoulders which is, according to the beliefs, loaded with fortunes for those who believe in his virtues.

His very long earlobes are a proof of high spirituality.

They are often portrayed on board of the treasure boat Takarabune.

References to this popular boat as well as to the seen Gods of Luck themselves are widely used in the current pop culture such as the characters in the manga/anime Noragami, or in older pieces of art such as the Japanese wooblock printing on the cover of ths blog, painted by the famous artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi.