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Daikoku and Ebisu: Gods of Fortune

Written on October 13, 2008

Right about now we all need a reprieve from thinking about the tanking global economy, and what better way to do so than to introduce two of Japan’s most beloved deities, Ebisu (left) and Daikoku (right), the ubiquitous “Gods of Good Fortune” and two of Japan’s “Seven Lucky Gods.” They are sometimes considered to be father (Daikoku) and son (Ebisu).  They are shown here in folk depictions.

Ebisu is the God of Fisherman and Fortune, not surprising that we find fortune and fish joined in a thought couplet in Japan, whose sustenance relies on abundance of fish.  Ebisu is shown as jolly, bearded fisherman shown holding a fishing rod in his right hand (in this case it is missing), and a large sea bream–a symbol of good fortune–in his left hand, or slung over his back.

Daikoku is the God of Wealth and Farmers;  in his popular form in Japan he is considered to be the “god of success is worldly endeavors” and he is shown, plump and smiling, standing on rice bales and, in his left hand, his trusty “magic mallet” which can bestow treasures when tapped.  He is often shown carrying a heavy bag of fortunate goodies.

Daikoku’s origins are Indian, not uncommon with certain Japanese deities: Buddhism traveled to Japan from India via China and Korea, and some of Buddhism’s early beliefs were syncretized with Hinduism: Hindu deities are installed in some of the most important  Nara, Heian and Kamakura era temples along with Buddhist deities.

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