The Seven Gods of Happiness in Japan

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In Japan, a famous New Year’s tradition is to visit the seven deities of happiness for good luck throughout the year. Every first weekend of January, families flock to temples and shrines to pray to these gods and retrieve their seals: this is the Shichifukujin pilgrimage.

In the japanese mythologyit is said that these deities would have traveled aboard a treasure ship to distribute gifts to those who behaved well.

Discover this Japanese legend and invite luck into your home!

? The Legend of the Shichifukujin

Every December 31, seven deities of good fortune travel on the Takarabune, the treasure ship, to bring prosperity to those who have been wise. Ebisu, Daikokuten, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju Hotei and Jurojin… Each of them can be identified by their appearanceI know accessories or your symbolic animals.

the night of japanese new year, parents put a picture of the famous sailing ship and its divine crew under the children’s pillows. This with the hope that you have sweet dreams and your bring luck for the next 12 months.

the seven godsFrom gauche à droite: Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Daikokuten, Ebisu.

? Origin of the 7 Gods of Prosperity

Why 7 deities and not 5 or 8? And good, number 7 is known to bring good luck in numerous countries. In Japan, it is used in traditional festivals and rituals: for example, the festival of stars Tanabata takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year; the Nanakusa no sekku (tradition of eating 7 medicinal herbs) takes place on January 7. Furthermore, Buddhism speaks of 7 reincarnations and we can also mention the 7 virtues of bushido(code that governed Japanese warriors during the samurai era).

The origin of The Legend of Shichifukujin it appeared in the Middle Ages in Japan between the 16th and 12th centuries under the Tokugawa shogunate. At that time, the people needed prosperity and religion was an important support. It was then that the legend of 7 lucky gods appeared in the Land of the Rising Sun. It is said that by praying to these Gods of happiness, one would cleanse himself of 7 misfortunes and gain 7 congratulations. During the Edo period, the tradition became popular, as can be seen from the many Shichifukujin performances in japanese traditional art.

seven deities

? The Shichifukujin Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage of the seven lucky gods developed with the tradition of hatsumode which usually consists of visit your neighborhood temple or shrine on the first day of the new year. This custom, which appeared in the Edo period, is believed to bring good luck throughout the year. The Shichifukujin pilgrimage proceeded in the same spirit. Therefore, visiting seven deities would guarantee the pinnacle of prosperity. Many routes are offered in Japan, especially in the cities of Tokyo. the pilgrimage Shichifukujin Meguri it is practiced by many locals, especially in the Yanaka district. One of the Shichifukujin customs is to bring a seal from each place of worship. True talisman, this last call goshuin consist of calligraphy and seal attesting to the visit.

⛩ Shichifukujin: Reflection of religious syncretism

Remember, the Japanese are the champions of syncretism. Furthermore, it is not surprising that the deities come from various religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism and Taoism. These gods from India, China, and Japan brought with them different forms of belief.

Seven gods are in a ship


Color woodblock print depicting Utagawa Hiroshige’s Takarabune.

In many representations (paintings, engravings, sculptures, images…) we can see a ship on the waves with the 7 gods piled on it. The Chinese character ” baku (獏), an auspicious creature that repels nightmares. We can also notice the presence of symbolic elements such as cranes, turtles or other Japanese amulets.

The treasure ship and its crew represent wealth, longevity, luck, and happiness. Indeed shichi (七) refers to the number “7”, fuku (福) means “lucky” and jin (神) “deity”. From the Edo period, many prints show this mythological scene using natural pigments. More recently, the sailboat of the 7 deities of happiness is the subject of illustrations. colorful and childish with round-headed men.

Although the seven gods bring happiness and joy, each of them is linked to a profession. Therefore, farmers will prefer to revere Ebisu et daikokutenteachers will honor jurojin and the artists Benzaiten. As for the restoration professionals, they will surely pray hood.

?‍♂ The Seven Deities of Happiness, who are they? ?

? Ebisu the fisher god


That is the patron saint of fishermen and merchants. This protective god of sailors and farmers is highly revered in Japan. He is often depicted with his mate. daikokuten. Wearing a hunter’s hat, the deity carries in his hands a fishing rod and a large fish. It is related to the virtue of honesty. Ebisu he would also be the first son of the demiurge gods Izanami and Izanagi, nicknamed “The Leech Boy”. Note that this is the only god of Japanese origin.

?Daikokuten the creator god of wealth


incarnation of shivais the Hindu deity of wealth, commerce and agriculture. Daikoku is also the protector of cooks.. Healthy and smiling, this demon hunting god wears a hat and a bag full of wisdom. He sits on rice balls and holds a mallet in his hand that he would move to create wealth.

⚔ Bishamonten the protective warrior god


Came from China as Tamonten, Bishamonten he is an incarnation of Vaishravana, the Hindu deity guardian of the Dharma (Buddhist law). The protector king of the North is dressed in armor and holds a spear as well as a pagoda. Considered the god of war and prosperity, Bishamon is revered by warriors to bring them luck in battle.

? Benzaiten the goddess of eloquence and the arts


Benzaitenalso called Different for those close to her ?, she is the goddess of water and the only female deity of the clan of 7. She is the incarnation of the Hindu deity Saraswati, goddess of the arts, music, eloquence, knowledge and beauty. She is accompanied by a white snake and a biwa (Japanese musical instrument).

? Fukurokuju: god of wealth and longevity


It is a Chinese deity of Taoism that represents wisdom, virility, fortune and longevity. Fukurokujin was a Chinese philosopher during his lifetime. He is described as a bald old man with a long white beard and an elongated skull. He carries a staff of wisdom and is sometimes accompanied by a crane or tortoise.

? Jurojin: god of longevity and wisdom


He is the oldest of the 7 deities. Patron of masters, this Taoist deity resembles Fukurokuju with his long beard and bald head. They are said to share the same body. This scholar holds a staff that contains the secrets of longevity. He is often accompanied by a deer or other auspicious animal.

? Hotei: generosity and abundance


hood also called the Buddha who laughs would be the incarnation of Maitraya or Buddha of the future. This old Chinese monk who actually existed in the 10th century also joined the Taoist and Shinto religion. That is the deity of good health, happiness, abundance and commerce. Hotei is very popular in Asia and the West, where it is frequently found in restaurants. Portrayed as a fat, bald, paunchy, grinning man, Hotei attracts prosperity and holds a sack full of treasure that is never empty. Rubbing your belly seems to bring good luck. Have you ever tried?

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