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Seven Lucky Gods of Japan

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The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu), three are from India, and three from China's Taoist-Buddhist traditions.

Ebisu: God of the Ocean & Fishing

Daikokuten: God of Earth / Agriculture
Benzaiten: Goddess of Music / Learning
Bishamonten: God of War / Treasure

Hotei (Laughing Buddha): Happiness
Fukurokuju: God of Wisdom / Wealth
Jurōjin: God of Longevity

Netsuke Set of the Seven Lucky Deities of Japan
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Seven Lucky Deities of Japan, Cypress Set
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Background Notes on Japan's Seven Lucky Gods, Seven Lucky Deities

Seven Lucky Gods of Japanspacer-7-lucky-gods-japanThe Shichifukujin are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu) and Japan's indigenous Shinto tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Jurōjin, and Fukurokuju). In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (takara bune 宝船) and dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan's "artificial" creation of the group in the 17th century. Images of the seven appear with great frequency in modern Japan. The Shichifukujin are an excellent example of the way Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Shinto beliefs live side by side in Japan, influencing one another, and even lending each other gods !

Says the Flammarion Iconographic Guide to Buddhism: This popular group of deities recalls "the seven wise men of the bamboo thicket" or the "seven wise men of the wine cup" whose images are popular in China. The Japanese group was artificially created in the 17th century by the monk Tenkai (who died in 1643 and was posthumously named Jigen Daishi), who wanted to symbolize the essential virtues of the man of his time for the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1623-1650 AD). <end quote>

Seven Deities & Their Attributes in Japan:

Name / Origin / Virtue

Functions / Attributes


Origin = Japan
Virtue = Candour

Ebisu at Iwaki Jinja Shrine, Japanspacer Ebisu. God of the Ocean, Fishing Folk, Prosperity. The smiling and bearded Ebisu is often depicted with a fishing rod in his right hand, and a large red sea bream (red snapper), a symbol of good luck in Japan, dangling from the line or tucked under his arms. Ebisu and Daikoku (see below) are often depicted together as a pair, with Daikoku considered the father and Ebisu the son. Artwork of the pair can be found everywhere in modern Japan. Sometimes shown with folding fan in one hand; grants success to people in their chosen occupations. Numerous Ebisu statues are available in our store.


Origin = India
Virtue = Fortune

Daikokuspacer Daikoku. God of the Earth, Agriculture, Farmers, Rice, Food Supply, Commerce, and Wealth. Daikoku usually wears a hood, stands on two bales of rice, has a large treasure sack slung over his shoulder. He also holds a small magic mallet. There are other forms, including a female form. Daikoku is also the deity of the kitchen & provider of food, and sometimes appears as three-headed Sanmen Daikoku 三面大黒天. In this manifestation, he protects the Three Buddhist Treasures (Sanpou 三宝) which are the Buddha, Dharma (teachings of the Buddha), and Sangha (community of Buddhist believers). Numerous Daikoku statues are available in our store.


Origin = India
Virtue = Amiability

Benzaiten - Zelkova Woodspacer Benzaiten. The goddess Benzai is the sole female among the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. She is the patroness of music, the fine arts (dancing, acting, visual), and good fortune in general, and is often shown carrying a biwa (lute or mandolin). Her temples and shrines are almost invariably in the neighborhood of water -- the sea, a river, or a pond. She is mostly represented as a beautiful woman with the power to assume the form of a serpent, or shown seated on a dragon or serpent and playing a lute. The snake, in fact, is almost always associated with Benzaiten, originally a Hindu deity (Sarasvati) who represented learning, music and poetry. Three Benzaiten statues are available in our store.


Origin = China
Virtue = Magnanimity

Hotei Netsukespacer God of Contentment and Happiness, Hotei has a cheerful face and a big belly. He is supposedly based on an actual person, and is widely recognized outside of Japan as the Fat Buddha or Happy Buddha or Laughing Buddha. He carries a large cloth bag over his back, one that never empties, for he uses it to feed the poor and needy. Indeed, the Japanese spelling of "Ho Tei" literally means "cloth bag." He also holds a Chinese fan called an oogi, said to be a "wish giving" fan -- in the distant past, this type of fan was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted. See Hotei statues for more statues.


Origin = China
Virtue = Popularity

Fukurokuju - Bizen Ceramicspacer God of Wisdom, Wealth, Longevity. The bearded Fukurokuju has an unusually high forehead, and is typically holding a cane with sutra scroll (Jp. = hebi) attached to it. He may also have a tortoise or crane near him (both creatures are signs of longevity in China & Japan). Fukurokuju probably originated from an old Chinese tale about a mythical Taoist Chinese hermit sage (Sung Period) renowned for performing miracles. In China, this hermit was considered to embody the celestial powers of the south polar star (Southern Cross). To some, the scroll is thought to contain all the wisdom of the world, while to others it contains a magical scripture. Often associated with or confused with Jurōjin (see below) -- the two are said to inhabit the same body.


Origin = China
Virtue = Longevity

Fukurokuju - Bizen Ceramicspacer God of Longevity. Jurojin (most properly spelled Jurōjin) is another god from China's Taoist pantheon. Depicted as an old man with a long white beard, he carries a holy staff with a scroll tied to it, on which is written the life span of all living things. He is sometimes depicted holding the staff in one hand and the scroll in the other. The deer, a symbol of longevity, usually (but not always) accompanies him as a messenger, as do other long-lived animals such as the stag, crane and tortoise. Jurōjin is often identified with Fukurokuju, as the two are said to inhabit the same body.


Origin = India

Virtue = Dignity

Bishamon Netsukespacer God of Wealth, Good Fortune, & Warriors. Also called Tamonten, Guardian of the Northern Quarter. Bishamonten is also considered a god of healing, with the power to save emperors from life-threatening illness and to expel the demons of plague. Bishamonten is usually clad in armor, with a spear in one hand and a pagoda in the other. He is the scourge of evil doers. Bishamon's name in Sanskrit is Vaishravana, which means "one who hears everything in the kingdom." The small pagoda he often carries symbolizes the divine treasure house. He is both a protector of and dispenser of its treasure -- he shares the pagoda's vast treasures with only "the worthy." Numerous Bishamon statues are available.

  • Treasure Boat, Modern Japanese Art, Artist —LX³‰æ”Œ LOCAL JAPANESE TRADITIONS
    On New Year's Eve, the seven enter port together on their takarabune 宝船 treasure ship) to bring happiness to everyone. On the night of January 2nd, tradition says, you should put , under your pillow, a picture of the seven aboard their treasure ship. If you have a lucky dream that night, you will be lucky for the whole year. I'm not sure why Jan. 2nd is the day for this.

  • About the Treasure Boat
    and Its Treasures (Takarazukushi)

    Originally this motif (the treasure boat) came from China, but only later did the Japanese add such treasures as the wish-granting jewel, the mallet of good fortune, the robe of invisibility, cloves, and a treasure bag.
  • Rub Me DaikokuRubbing Tradition
    Another curious tradition still widely practiced in Japan is that of rubbing Daikoku or Hotei. When visiting temples that enshrine statues of the seven deities, visitors often rub the head / shoulders of Daikoku or Hotei. Doing so is said to bring wealth - which rubs off the statue onto the rubber. Photo at right shows life-size wooden Daikoku statue at Hase Dera in Kamakura -- the sign at his feet says "Rubbing Daikoku -- Please Touch." Also, rubbing the stomach of Hotei is said to bring good luck.

  • Marishiten
    In Japan, there is another goddess (of Hindu origin) named Marishiten who is revered as a tutelary deity of the warrior class and is worshipped as a goddess of wealth and prosperity among merchants. She was counted along with Daikokuten and Benzaiten as one of a trio of "Three Deities" (Santen 三天) invoked for good fortune during the Edo period, but supplanted by Benzaiten in modern times.

Learn More
For many more details and photos of the seven lucky gods of Japan,
please see the A-to-Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Buddhism (outside link). 


Return to Buddhist-Artwork Homepage and Buddha Statues StoreJump to the A-to-Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Buddhism (sister site); Gods, Goddesses, Shinto Kami, Creatures & Demons in JapanJump to the A-to-Z Dictionary of Buddhism in Japan (sister site)