Japan: The Spiritual World and images of gods/goddesses 

The land of the rising sun is home to a number of gods and deities which depict several meanings to the Japanese people and their culture. But there are actually seven popular gods in Japan known as the Shichi Fukujin or the Seven Lucky Gods that represent different types of luck and virtues since the 15th century. This gallery showcases all of the Seven Lucky Gods. 

These Seven are Ebisu, Daikokuten (or Daikoku), Benzaiten (or Benten), Bishamonten (or Bishamon), Fukurokuju, Jurojin, and Hotei Sama. They are represented in various forms of artwork - statues, carvings, paintings, etc. This gallery includes figurines of different mediums (ivory, wood, porcelain, ceramic, etc.) in order for the viewer to get a sense of some of their forms and closer details. All of these Gods symbolize important, positive qualities that are integrated within the Japanese cultures. These Gods are honored through celebrations and shrines. They are not forgotten.

There are traditions in Japan in which the Seven Lucky Gods are involved. Japanese children are told to place a picture of the seven gods aboard their treasure ship, under their pillow on the night of the new year. It is said that if the person sees a lucky dream, he or she will have a good year ahead of them. However, if that person has a bad dream, it is said that if the person who had the dream lets the picture drift in a river, the person’s luck will change for that year. One tradition that also takes place around the first week of the year is the Shichi Fukujin Meguri or the Pilgrimage to the temple and shrines dedicated to the Seven Lucky Gods. Families visit each one to pay their respects to the gods in the hope of receiving good fortune. In the old days, people would do the pilgrimage tour on foot but with modernization in Japan, people can go by car or bus, making it easier to visit every location in less time.

Rubbing of statues is a practice in many countries, but Japan is especially fond of this tradition. There are many shrines in Japan that are dedicated to the Seven Lucky Gods where you can visit. The Seven Lucky Gods have also become a popular image of souvenir items for both the Japanese and tourists as well. Even in modern times, the impact these gods have still remains strong in Japan.Cartwright, Mark. “Shichi Fukujin,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified June 24, 2013. http://www.ancient.eu /Shichi_Fukujin/ 

"Jurojin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016 <http: / /www.britannica.com /topic /jurojin>.

Unknown. “Meet the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan!”. jpinfo.com, 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2016 <http: / /jpninfo.com /31741>

Schumacher, Mark. “Kichijōten 吉祥天, Kichijō Tennyo 吉祥天女, Kudokuten 功徳天 Goddess of Beauty, Fertility, Prosperity, and Merit”. onmarkproductions.com, 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2016 <http: / /www.onmarkproductions.com /html /kichijouten.html>

Schumacher, Mark. “FUKUROKUJU 福禄寿 God of Wealth, Happiness, Longevity”. onmarkproductions.com, 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2016 <http: / /www.onmarkproductions.com /html /fukurokuju.shtml>Unknown. “Shichifukujin”.seiyaku.mobi. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. <http: / /www.seiyaku.mobi /reference /seven /shichifukujin3.php>

Benzaiten, also known as Benten, is the only goddess within the Seven Lucky Gods. Benzaiten is a Japanese Buddhist god who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati in India. She is the god of music, arts and knowledge and is often seen holding a biwa, or a Japanese lute. There are a number of temples in honor of Benzaiten in Enoshima and she is the god that represents the virtue of joy. ("Meet"). Benten is an important addition particularly because she is the only goddess of the Seven Lucky Gods. Due to her honorable status, she is an essential piece to uplift within the gallery.
Jurōjin, in Japanese mythology, one of the Shichi-fuku-jin (“Seven Gods of Luck”), particularly associated with longevity. He is supposed, like Fukurokuju, another of the seven with whom he is often confused, to have once lived on earth as a Chinese Taoist sage. He is often depicted as an old man with a white beard, wearing a scholar’s headdress and sometimes accompanied by a stag. He carries a large stick to which is attached a scroll containing the world’s wisdom. ("Jurojin"). Jurōjin belongs in this gallery due to his status as one of the Seven Gods of Luck. He carries wisdom, a quality that can lead humans to more insight and intelligence.. It is important to classify him as the distinct being he is - that way there is less confusion between him and Fukurokuju.
Hotei is the god of happiness and abundance and is also from China based on the reincarnation of Maitreya, a Buddhist saint. Hotei is depicted as a large bellied Buddhist monk holding an ogi or a ceremonial fan and a sack, with a smiling face. Hotei is very well known outside of Japan as the “Laughing Buddha”. Hotei is the god that represents the virtue of happiness. ("Meet"). Hotei is one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. He is important to this gallery as one of them, but also for his happy characteristics. It is also important to note that he is not Buddha himself, although his nickname is "Laughing Buddha". He is instead a saint.
An auspicious subject in Chinese and Japanese painting, he is usually accompanied by a bat and tortoise, and occasionally a stag with a small body and elongated bald head. He is perhaps the divine representation of a Taoist hermit sage of the Song period. He is also said to be the god of the Southern Cross, or wisdom, virility, fertility, and longevity. He was sometimes, but seldom, replaced in the assembly of the Seven Lucky Gods by Kichijouten. Among the seven, he is the only one credited with being able to revive the dead. (Schumacher). Fukurokuju is important to the gallery due to his nature as one of the Seven Gods of Luck. His unique quality of being able to revive the dead shows his power, which provides interest to the gallery's discussion of many of the Seven Gods of Luck portrayed. He is also said to be a combination of the Three Star Gods from China.
"Ebisu - is probably of Japanese origin, is a Shintō god, the patron of work, specifically tradesmen and fishermen, and is usually depicted wearing Japanese costume and headdress. He has a portly figure, large swollen earlobes, and he usually has a fishing rod in his right hand whilst in his left is a large, freshly caught fish - a tai (sea bream, sea bass or dorado), itself a symbol of good luck. Perhaps due to his successful catch, Ebisu is always smiling. In later tradition Ebisu is identified with Hiruko, the first offspring of the gods Izanagi and Izananmi. Traditionally, Ebisu is celebrated in an annual feast held on the 20th of October."was an incarnation of Shivain in India, where he protected people against evil forces. (Cartwright). Daikoku came to Japan from China in the 9th century, although originally he was an incarnation of Shivain in India, where he protected people against evil forces. In addition to giving a good harvest to farmers, he is another god who ensures prosperity and wealth in commerce and trade. He is also guardian for cooks and all kitchen workers. People who dream of financial riches tend to worship this god.” (“Shichifukujin”). Daikoku and Ebisu are figures who belong in the gallery due to their celebrated and worshipped nature. People respect them due to their relations with farmers and fishermen - occupations which can provide bountiful supplies of food to people with the help of these two deities.
Bishamonten (or Bishamon or Tamon) - is the god of happiness and war, is the patron of warriors and protector of the righteous. He is depicted in full Chinese armour and carrying a lance in his left hand. In his right hand he has a small pagoda building which represents a treasury. Traditionally he is associated with the Hindu and Buddhist deity Kubera or Vaisravana. Shiga, the temple city founded around the 6th century CE, was dedicated to the god in thanks after Shōtoku Taishi won a battle at the site. (Cartwright). Bishamonten belongs in this gallery to show his symbolism as a protector of those deserving of it. Although it is easy to view "war" and "happiness" as contradictory characters of this god, it is important to remember that Bishamonten protects and guides the righteous through war.
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