What is Shichi Fukujin, the 7 Lucky Gods?
Shichi Fukujin (七福神), known in English as Seven Lucky Gods or Seven Gods of Happiness, are seven gods of good fortune in Japanese mythology and folklore. These seven gods were chosen from Hinduist, Buddhist, Taoist and Shintoist deities and became famous during Edo period.
The origins are unsure, but it is believed to be related to the essential virtues of the man around 17th century (longevity, fortune, popularity, candor, amiability, dignity, and magnanimity). The Japanese legend is the seven gods travel in a ship called Takarabune which is filled with treasures and come from the sea bringing fortune and prosperity to beleivers during New Year’s Eve.
The seven Gods are:
Also known as Yebisu, he is the God of Fishing, Shipping and Commerce and is the only one to have his origins in Japan. Ebisu is very popular among the people who works in the food industry (farmers and sailors) as is commonly presented wearing formal court clothes or hunting robes. He is often presented with a fishing rod in his right hand and a large red sea bream under his left arm. The virtue he represents is Honesty.
He was originally a Hidu warrior deity that was incorporated to Japanese culture as the God of Wealth and Prosperity. He is well known for his happy-looking smile and is often presented with a bag on this shoulder filled with money and a magic mallet standing on two bales of rice. The virtue he represents is Fortune.
Bishamonten’s origin is Indian Buddhism and he is the God of Warriors (not war) as well as the God of Defense Against Evil. Usually dressed in armor with a fierce look and standing over one demon symbolizing the defeat of evil. In one hand he has a weapon to fight against evil influences and suppress the enemies. On the other hand he holds a treasure pagoda or stupa, which is his main identifying attribute. The virtue he represents is Dignity.
The only goddess between Shinchi Fukujin. She is originally the Hindu goddess of water, but in Japan she represents the Goddess of Arts and Knowledge. Her common form is a beautiful woman dressed in a flowing Chinese-style dress and playing the biwa (Japanese short-necked fretted lute) or maybe the flute. The virtue she represents is Joy.
Fukurokuju comes from China’s Taoism and he is the God of Wealth, Happiness, and Longevity. Represented with an elongated forehead and long mustache, he is usually using scholar clothes, holding a walking stick with a scroll tied to it. It is believed he has the ability to revive the dead. The virtue he represents is Longevity.
This God comes from China as well, ans he represents the God of Wisdom and is commonly presented as an old tall man wearing a hat with a long white beard holding a walking staff with a scroll tied to it. He is often confused with Fukurokuju, as both are presented in a very similar way, though in Jurōjin a black deer always accompanies him as a messenger and as symbol of longevity. The virtue he represents is Wisdom.
Another God with Chinese origins, Hotei (a.k.a Budai) is the God of Happiness and Abundance. He is represented as a Buddhist monk with a smiling face and a prominent showy belly, holding a sack and a wooden staff, usually seated or sleeping in his bag. Outside Japan, he is known as “Laughing Buddha”. The virtue he represents is Happiness.
Where they are worshipped:
There are several places that the Shichi Fukujin can be found. Most of towns in Japan has temples and shrines that enshrine each one of 7 Lucky Gods. One suggestion is Asakusa Shichifukujin (浅草七福神), one of the popular tours of Asakusa. There are 9 shrines and temples for Asakusa Shichifukujin. They have special Gosyuin, the autographs of each God!
Hope this article helped you to understand about Shichi Fukujin and go find them!
For more articles about temples and shrines: “Shrines, Temples and Heritage: Cultural Tranquility at Its Finest“, “Sanctuaries of Reverence: Tranquility Every Visitor Should Experience“.