Seven Deities of Good Luck on Treasure Boat(Wood-Block Print

“Shichi-Fuku-Jin” is believed to be seven individual deities who bring good fortunes topeople in Japan. They are named “Benzaiten”, “Daikokuten”,“Bisyamonten”, “Jyurojin”, “Hoteison”, “Ebisu” and “Fukurokujyu”. They are generically called “Shichi-Fuku-Jin”
which literally means Seven deities of good luck. It is said that people would ward off 7 misfortunes and be blessed with 7 good lucks by praying to these deities.

Japanese have been believing in large numbers of deities from ancient times. When Buddhism was introduced from India through Korean Peninsula into Japan in 538,they innocently absorbed the foreign religion and fused it with indigenous beliefs in Shintoism. They enshrined the fused deities together with the existing ones in their community or home and reverently worshipped all of them as adore creators, guardians and ancestors in their daily life. They evolved a generous religious view of syncretism in which they tried to get along with new and external believes without prejudice for a long period of time. And it has been observed that the fused deities transformed,being affected by natural features, culture, social conditions of the times, apart from the virtue and image which they originalllyhad.

Various deities had emerged by the syncretistic fusion among Shintoism, Buddhism (derived from Hinduism) of India and Taoism of China from Heian Period (794-1,185) to Muromachi Period (1,338-1,573). At the late stage of Muromachi Period, 7 numbers of
deities were chosen from the existing deities and were unified into one group for blessing good luck in Kyoto, modeled after a popular motif of black-and- white drawing called “the Seven Sages of Bamboo Grove” in ancient China. This is said to be the origin
of “Shichi-Fuku-Jin” (Seven deities of good luck). But the members of 7 deities had not been fixed yet. After early Edo Period (1,603-1,867), the current members of Seven deities were settled and popularized across the country.

When Ieyasu Tokugawa unified more than 270 feudal lords over the country and established Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo City in 1,603, he requested them to stay in Edo in alternate-years and their family through the years. It resulted in an influx of wide variety of provincial people and their culture into Edo City. Edo City had developed into the largest city in the world with an estimated
population of 1.5 million who had different belief, habitual practices and way of thinking.
There used to be a high-ranked Buddhist priest named “Tenkai” who took deeply part in the Imperial Court policy and religion policy of the Shogunate as an adviser for the first Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugwa in the early Edo Period (1,603-1,867). He was a founder of Kaneiji Temple on Ueno Hill. One day he preached to Ieyasu Tokugawa about 7 cardinal virtues of deities. (Immediate relief of 7 misfortunes and blessing of fortunes) which were described in the Humane King Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in Buddhism which the Shogun should be provided with. Being impressed by the preaching, Ieyasu ordered Shogun’s official painter named Kano Tanyu to draw the Seven deities of good luck (“Shichi-Fuku-Jin”) sitting on a treasure boat. The image of 7 deities was loved by many people and was applied as a popular motif to paintings,sculptures, porcelains etc, Thus the image of “Shichi-Fuku-Jin” spread over the country. People were pleased to worship each of 7 deities which has its own specialty in providing them with specific blessings such as “Peace & prosperity in the household”, “Prosperous business”, “Good spousal relationship in marriage”,“Childbirth”, “Growth of children”, “Social success and promotion” and “Good health”.
During the New Year’s holidays, a lot of people made a pilgrimage to the 7 deities as yearly event to pray for their happiness throughout the year. “Shichi-Fuku-Jin”(Seven deities of good luck) was the most popularized folk belief in Edo Period and continue to remain even today.

The pilgrimage to Seven deities is currently observed all over the country.In Tokyo it is found in Yanaka area, Yamanote, Asakusa, Mukoujima and so on. Among those, the pilgrimage in Yanaka area has been conducted since the beginning of Edo Period and it is the oldest event being popular with many people in Tokyo nowadays. 7 deities of Yanaka are respectively enshrined in 7 temples which are dotted on and around Ueno-Hill being formed like a peninsula, extending along JR Yamanote-Line from Ueno station to Tabata Station. There are Ueno Park, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Yanaka Cemetery and Yanaka-Ginza shopping arcade. One can observe old wooded row houses and historical temple buildings. In these areas, one can still feel a rustic tranquility even though it is located just in hustle and bustle mega city of Tokyo.The pilgrimage to Yanaka Seven deities of good luck is around 4 Km of distance and approx.. traveling time two hours’ on foot, staring from Sinobazuno Pond to Tabata Station.

Map of Seven Deities of Good Luck in Yanaka

During New Year’s holidays, the statues of 7 deities are open to the public. A lot of people go on a pilgrimage to these 7 deities. They visit the temples one by one and pray for their happiness through the year, commencing from “Benzaiten” enshrined in Benten-Do Prayer’s hall of Kaneiji Temple at Shinobazu Pond and subsequently “Daikokuten” in Gokoku-In Temple behind Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, “Bisyamonten” at Tennouji Temple in Yanaka Cemetery, “Jyurojin” in Choanji Temple near the Cemetery, “Hoteison” in Nippori Shuseiin Temple, “Ebisu” in Nippori Seiunji Temple (These two are near Yanaka-Ginza shopping arcade) and then “Fukurokujyu” in Tokakuji Temple near Tabata Station.Young ladies walk with a stamp collecting album of a scared emblem of Temple under their arm. Groups of aged people are led by their leader raising up the member flag. All of them carry a knapsack on their back with comfy sneakers.

Tracing back 7 deities to their origin, 3 out of 7 are in ancient India, other 3 in China and then one in Japan. They are a group of deities with international background. They might bless people with more success in various fields under the current globalization
in the world.

What are seven deities of good luck?

Benzaiten enshrined in Benten-Do Prayer’s hall of Kaneiji Temple at Shinobazu Pond(Establishment of the temple in 1625).

Benten-Do Temple on Shinobazu Pond.

Benzaiten is a sole female deity among 7 deities. She is originated in the Hindu goddess Saraswati (The name of a legendary river in the Rigveda). After she was taken up from Buddhism which had been derived from Hinduism, she was given the attributes of talent, beauty, music, eloquence, wealth, marriage and water. She was introduced at the beginning of Kamakura Period (1,185-1,333). She carries a biwa, a Japanese traditional lute-like instrument and is normally accompanied by a white snake. She is worshipped by musicians, narrative artists, writers, dancers etc. in showbusiness

Daikokuten in Gokoku-In Temple behind Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.( Establishment of the temple in 1625).

Gokoku-In Temple at the back of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.Daikokuten is originated in the Hindu deity Mahakala who is an incarnation of Lord Siva and is curiously the controller of time and the great destroyer. When he was
adopted as Buddhism deity into Japan, he fused with “Okuni-Nushi”, Shintoism deity in Japanese mythology. He has been believed in as a guardian of farmers, a deity of wealth & commerce and a demon hunter in Japan.He is depicted in the legendary drawings as a stout, dark-skinned and smiling deity,wearing a hat on his head, holding wish-granting mallet in his right hand, slinging a bag being full of treasures over his back and sitting on rice bags. Sometimes rats are shown around him.Bisyamonnten at Tennouji Temple in Yanaka Cemetery. (Origin of the temple in 1,274)

Tennouji Temple in Yanaka Cemetery.
Bisyamonten is originated in Kubera, Hindu deity of wealth who is also known “Vaisravana” in Hindu culture.In Japan he has been worshipped as the deity of victory in war and battles, also associated with authority and dignity. He was also believed to bring living
accommodation and good luck. He is shown dressed in armor and a helmet, having halo of fire behind his head, carrying a pagoda in his left hand and a spear in his right hand,stomping on an evil. Bisyamonten is believed by fighters in sporting field, dealers in
stock market, player of board game etc…
Jyurojin in Choanji Temple near the Yanaka Cemetery,(Establishment in 1,724)

Choan-Ji Temple near Yanaka Semetery.Jyurojin is a deity of longevity in Chinese Taoism. He is believed to be the incarnation of the southern polestar which is regarded as lucky star in China. It is said that he is usually drawn with a long white beard, holding a walking cane in his right hand and scroll in his left hand, under the peach tree of which fruit contains antioxidant properties being effective to prolong life. Some portrait depicts him riding a deer along with a 1500-year old crane and a tortoise, as symbols of longevity. There are various presentations of his figure. It has not been standardized. He was accepted by Japanese as the deity who blesses people with longevity as he had been in China.Symboles of Jyurojin have a lot of affinities with Fukurokujyu mentioned below.
Hoteison in Nippori Shuseiin Temple. (Establishment of the temple in 1,573)

Shusei-In Temple near Yanaka Ginza Shopping Arcade.Hoteison is a deity of Taoism in China.He is a real Zen priest named “Kaishi” who had been living in the Tang Dunasty (610-907) in China. He communicated with everyone friendly but sometimes behaved puckishly against moral. He was presented as a fat, smiling bald man with goggle eyes and a curly moustache. His potbelly always peeps out of his clothing.He did not settle down in a place and wandered from place to place carrying a bag being full of fortune on his shoulder. And he blessed his believers with good fortune in his virtues. It is said that he also had sharp foresight and led people to be peaceful and calm.People worshipped him as a deity of fortune, guardian of children, deity of fortune teller and deity of popularity.Japanese began to worship “Hoteison” in Edo Period. He was believed as an incarnation of Mirokubosatsu (Maitreya is a bodhisattva) to save people who could not be saved by Buddha.

Ebisui in Nippori Seiunji Temple(Establishment of the temple in 1,751-64)

Seiun-ji Temple near Yanaka Ginza Shopping Arcade Ebisu is only a Japanese deity among Seven Deities of Good Luck, who is originated in Shintoism and comes out in Japanese mythology. He was usually presented with a fat, bearded, smiling fisherman, carrying a rod in his right hand and a red snapper under his left arm. He is a deity of prosperity and wealth in business, and of abundance in farming and fishing. His image is often observed in fish dealers’ shop and market. In the western Japan, Ebisu is believed to be a deity transformed from large-sized sea creatures such as whale, whale killer or dolphin.

Fukurokujyu in Tokakuji Temple (Establishment of the temple in 1,491)

Toukaku-Ji Temple near Tabata Station.Fuku-roku-jyu is a deity of longevity, happiness and wealth. “Fuku” of his name literally stands for happiness, “Roku” for wealth and “Jyu” for longevity. He also blesses people with wisdom. He is said to have once lived as Taoist hermit during the Song Dynasty(1,127―1,279)in China. He is believed to be the incarnation of the southern polestar which is regarded as lucky star in China. He is the only deity who was said to have the ability to resurrect the dead.Fukurokuju is usually characterized by a short old man with a conspicuously high-domed, bald head, being almost as large as the size of his whole body. He normally carries a gemstone in one hand and in the other a walking cane with scroll containing the description about the world. He is occasionally accompanied by a crane or the deer or the tortoise, associated with longevity.Fukurokujyu enshrined in Tokakuji Temple has different posture.He stretches forth the scroll in both hands, wearing a hood on his head.

The pilgrimage to Seven deities still survives at the present in connection with recentwalking boom. It spreads over the country as a popular event being held at the beginning of the year.

Nowaday is the age of fitness boom.The number of walker has increased more than two times over the past 20 years. It is
reported that one person regularizes to take for a walk more than one time a week at least. In aging society, people who had enjoyed jogging are increasingly turning to walking.

Walking with a comfortable pace is an ideal exercise for the prevention of obesity and the stress relieving. Specially group walking gives opportunities to talk with other friendly co-walkers and occasionally with passers-by while enjoying surrounding scenery.

It is reported that prominent philosophers, artists and novelists suddenly had a creative inspiration while they were sauntering neighborhood. The pilgrimage to Seven deities in Yanaka has become a well-known yearly event in Tokyo in conjunction with the current fitness boom and people’s historical approach.It offers interesting walks, including parks, heritage trails, pondside and hillside path, temple town and nature reserves etc.The walking for pilgrimage would boost one’s outlook on life and perhaps receive
blessings from Seven Deities of Good Luck.