The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan are an underlying theme prominent in Japanese culture, which appears in popular Japanese media such as advertising, movies, animation, and television. They are also often a primary feature of traditional shrines around Japan. Known in Japanese as the “Shichifukujin” (pronounced Shee-chee-foo-koo-jeen); the rather intriguing mix of divine characters shares a somewhat diversified cultural background. Usually appearing in a ship when shown together, this joyful and motley crew of smiling good fortune has members who hail from not only Japan, but also India and China. Three of these lucky symbols are from traditional Indian spirituality and three are from Chinese Taoism. Only one of them is originally Japanese.
Thankfully they are proof such international friendships are a good idea, as they are known to journey harmoniously together on a ship of treasure to share all of the positive qualities that are embodied by their cheery symbolism. On the celebration of the New Year, in particular, this legendary group is said to travel on their boat in a fashion very similar to Santa’s sleigh and hand out treasure and good fortune to those deemed worthy and deserving. Children receive envelopes of money decorated with the characters around this time. Let’s take a look at this cast of characters to get to know each one a little better.
The only goddess in the group, Benzaiten is the Japanese goddess of art, beauty, knowledge, and music. She is often depicted with a Japanese stringed instrument, a magical jewel, or sometimes a water spirit in the form of a dragon. She is considered to be an import of the popular Indian goddess of music, Saraswati. Benzaiten’s primary positive quality is considered to be pleasant social compatibility. She is certainly a great choice for a party hostess!
This is considered to be the Japanese god symbolic of wisdom and all that it entails. Jurojin is considered to be the Japanese form of the Taoist sage, Lao Tzu, who is considered to be the author of the famous “Tao Te Ch’ing”. His symbolism features a rather large and elongated cranium, and a long white beard to go with it. He carries a staff and scroll which is said to contain the secret of longevity!
Oddly enough, Fukurokuju is kind of a twin of Jurojin, although the two are often depicted as dressing quite dissimilarly in an apparent attempt to mask their nearly identical forms. His scroll is said to contain all of the wisdom of the world.
Hotei This is the fat and rosy cheeked Japanese god of abundance and good health. This character is actually the Japanese version of the Chinese “Laughing Buddha”, which shares many of the same traits in its appearance and positive qualities. He is depicted carrying a bag which provides an endless supply of food and treasure to those who need it. Rubbing the stomach of a statue of Hotei, just as its Chinese counterpart, is said to imbue the person rubbing it with good luck of an abundantly happy and content kind in every way.
Daikokuten is the Japanese god of wealth, commerce, trade, and prosperity. He is often depicted with a large and magical mallet in his hand. He is also considered to be the patron of farmers and flood control, as well as the kitchen!
Often paired with Daikokuten in or around smaller retail shops, Ebisu is the Japanese god of merchants. He is also considered to be the patron of fishers and is often depicted carrying a large fish in his hand.
This is the relatively fearsome warrior of the group as Bishamonten wears armor and is the Japanese patron god of war and warriors. He is also considered to be the god of the treasures associated with victory in war. He is often depicted carrying a spear.
That is a lot of good fortune and hopefully you will enjoy all that the Lucky Seven have to offer during your stay in Japan or wherever you may be.