The Shichifukujin 七福神 are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu) and Japan’s indigenous Shintō tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, & Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei,Jurōjin, & Fukurokuju). In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (Takarabune) and visit human ports on New Year’s Eve to dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan’s “artificial” creation of the group. The origin of the group is unclear, although most scholars point to the Muromachi Era (1392-1568) and the 15th century.
Origin = Japan.
Shinto Name: Kotoshiro-nushi-no-kami
God of the Ocean, Fishing Folk, Good Forture, Honest Labor, Commerce. Virtue = Candor, Fair Dealing
Holds a fish (TAI, sea bream or red snapper), which symbolizes luck and congratulation (Japanese word for happy occasion is omede-TAI); fishing rod in right hand; folding fan in other; grants success to people in their chosen occupations; son of Daikoku. Popular among fishing folk, sailors, and people in the food industry.
Origin = India.
Skt. = Mahakala
Intro to Japan 9th C. AD
God of Earth, Agrculture, Farmers, Wealth, Prosperity, Flood Control, The Kitchen. Virtue = Fortune
God of five cereals; rice bales; treasure sack (bag); magic mallet in right hand; sometimes wears hood; rat (found around food); often shown with Ebisu, who is said to be his son; merged with Shinto deity of good harvests, Okuninushi no Mikoto. Also a member of the TENBU. Popular among farmers, agricultural businesses, & traders.
Origin = India.
Skt. = Sarasvati
Goddess of Music, Beauty, Eloquence, Literature, Art. Virtue = Amiability
Japanese mandolin, lute, magic jewel, snake, sea dragon. Only female among the seven. Member of the TENBU grouping. Popular among artists, musicians, and writers.
Hotei 布袋 (PLEASE STOP CALLING THIS GUY BUDDHA!!!!!)
Origin = China.
Chn. = Putai, Budai
Budaishi (Jp. = Fuudaishiten)
God of Contentment and Happiness. Virtue = Magnanimity
Bag of food and treasure that never empties; oogi (fan), small children at his feet; supposedly only member of seven based on actual person (although Jurōjin / Fukurokuju might also be based on real person); known as the Laughing Buddha; rubbing his stomach is said to bring good luck; incarnation ofBodhisattva Maitreya (Jp. = Miroku). Popular among bartenders and all classes of people. Best known of the seven outside Japan.
Origin = China.
Taoist Hermit Sage
God of Wealth, Happiness, Longevity, Verility, and Fertility. Virtue = Popularity
Huge elongated head; long white beard, cane with sutra scroll, crane, deer, stag, tortoise (symbols of longevity); scroll said to contain all the wisdom in the world; said to inhabit same body as Jurōjin (the pair are two different manifestations of the same deity); wields power to revive the dead. Popular among watchmakers, athletes, others.
Origin = China. Identified with Laozi (Jp. = Rōjinseishi), the founder of Chinese Toaism
God of Wisdom & Longevity. Virtue = Longevity.
Also spelled Jurojin.
Long white beard, knobbly staff with scoll of life attached; tortoise, deer, stag, crane; in same body as Fukurokuju (the pair represent two different manifestations of the same deity); scroll said to hold the secret to longevity; sometimes carries a drinking vessel, as he reportedly loves rice wine (sake). Popular among teachers, professors, and scientists.
Origin = India.
God of Treasure, Bringer of Wealth, Defender of the Nation, Scourge of Evil Doers, Healer of Ilness. Virtue = Dignity
Wears armor, carries spear and treasure pagoda; centipede is messenger; Vaisravana in Sanskrit; also known as Tamonten(the commander of the Shitenno or Four Heavenly Kings), and a member of the TENBU Popular among soldiers, doctors, and certain Buddhist monestaries; the only member of theShitenno worshipped independently.
TREASURE BOAT & TREASURE
The treasure ship (Takarabune 宝船) is laden with treasure (Takara 宝). Says JAANUS: “The Chinese character BAKU 獏, a Chinese imaginary animal thought to devour (i.e. prevent) nightmares, is sometimes found written on the sail. Often auspicious cranes and tortoises are depicted in the sky and the sea. Although the origin of treasure-boat paintings is not clear, one Edo-period record indicates that they were started in the Muromachi period.”
- Hat of Invisibility = Kakuregasa 隠れ笠, and Cloak of Invisibility (Lucky Raincoat) = Kakuremino 隠れ蓑. Allows one to perform good deeds without being seen.
- Robe of Feathers = Hagoromo 羽衣. A long loose flowing garment giving one the gift of flight. Attribute of Benzaiten.
- Magic Mallet, Mallet of Good Fortune = Uchide no Kozuchi 打出の小槌. Brings forth money when struck against an object or when shaken. Common attribute of Daikokuten.
- Bag of Fortune = Nunobukuro 布袋 (lit. cloth bag). Includes an inexhaustible cache of treasures, including food and drink. Common attribute of Hotei.
- Never-Empty Purse or Moneybag = Kanabukuro 金袋. Bag of unlimited wealth, prosperity & fortune.
- Key to Divine Treasure House = Kagi 鍵. The treasure house is symbolized by the stupa (pagoda) held by Bishamonten.
- Rolls of Brocade = Orimono 織物. Scarves and clothing were considered treasures in ancient times and used in various rituals. Not sure of its meaning here.
- Scrolls of Wisdom & Longevity = Makimono 巻物. Common attributes of Jurōjin and Fukurokuju, who are said to be two different manifestations of a single deity (the god of wisdom and longevity).
women’s haori -
The treasures that we can identify include ‘kakuregasa’ (hat of invisibilty); ‘tsuchi’ (mallet, which when struck grants all the bearer’s wishes); ‘magatama’ (ancient curved bead); ‘nunobukuro’ (bag of unlimited wealth); ‘chouji’ (cloves); ‘makimono’ (scrolls of wisdom and longevity); and ‘shippo’ ( overlapping circles).
Takara Zukushi 宝ずくし - Treasure
Ok, this post is inspired by Horitada, I have been hunting for the name of these designs for ages..I have always thought these items were just called lucky charms, to bring good fortune.
There is a list at the bottom, that describes some of these items, and finally, the name of the key inari holds in it’s mouth, the one I have been searching so long for… I have seen these designs done in a few ways, from Hikae designs, to knuckles and even in the same manner as Juzu.
Takara can stand alone as individual motifs, or grouped together in a number of combinations - the popular grouping knowing as shippou or shichihou, which means seven treasures.
Takara Bune 宝船 (the treasure ship) traditionally sets sail on New Years Eve, and therefore would be a motif for wearing around the new years. However, being an auspicious motif, it can be worn year round, dictated by the fabric weight, weave and lining.
Additionally, takara can be found paired with the Takara Bune and the Sichifukujin 七福神 (seven gods of good fortune). According to legend, the Takara Bune sails into port on New Years Eve.
An old superstition that the first dream of the New Year reveals one’s fate for the year. Therefore people would place takara bune pictures with a poem under their pillow which reads the same backwards or forwards in the hopes it would attract good dreams:
Nakakiyono tono nefurino minamezame
Naminori funeno otono yokikana
“During the endless night, half sleeping, half waking, I hear sounds of a ship sailing over the wave crests —Oh, I know it is bringing good fortune!”
A slightly different romanization and translation:
nagakiyo no tou no nemuri no mina mezame
naminori fune no oto no yokikana
“Awakening from a deep sleep after a long night, I seem to hear the sweet sound of a boat sailing through the waves”
In the case of a bad dream, one might set their painting/poem adrift in the sea in an effort to delay bad luck.
The individual takara are (but not limited to):
Hagoromo 羽衣 - Feathered cloak of a tennin
Magatama 勾玉 - Ancient Curved Bead
Gin 銀 - Silver
Kin 金 - Gold
Sango 珊瑚 - Coral
Uchide no Kozuchi 打出の小槌 - Mallet of Good Fortune
Ruri 瑠璃 - Lapis
Shako - Giant Clam
Menou 瑪瑙 - Agate
Kakuregasa 隠れ笠 - Hat of Invisibility
Kakuremino 隠れ蓑 - Cloak of Invisibility
Chouji チョウジ - Cloves
Kagi 鍵 - Key to Divine Treasure House (This is the Key in Inari’s mouth I was searching forever for)
Kanabukuro 金袋 - Bag of Unlimited Wealth, Prosperity & Fortune
Makimono 巻物 - Scrolls of Wisdom & Longevity
Orimono 織物 - Rolls of Silk Brocade
Houji - Ball of Fire
Nunobukuro 布袋 - Bag of Fortune
Itomaki 糸巻き - Spool
Koma 独楽 - Spinning Top
Kome Tawara 米俵 - Rice Bales
I have also seen other items such as Hyotan (Gourd), Uchiwa (Tengu’s magic fan), Gunbei (Battle fan), sanko (buddhist weapon) Nyoi-hoju: (This precious globe realizes one’s wishes) etc
this is a common kimono pattern, referenced from Naomi at ImmortalGeisha.com and Imari.com