The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan: An Ancient and Rewarding Pilgrimage

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Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage

Embark on the Tokyo Events in January with the Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage, an Enchanting Spiritual Journey.

In Japan, a rich fusion of cultural influences showcases religious beliefs from Shinto, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This is embodied in the seven deities known as the Shichifukujin or the ‘Seven Lucky Gods. Each deity, except for one native to Japan, has its roots tracing back to China or India and existed independently before Japan brought them together in the 16th century. Also known as the Jurojin, Ebisu, Hotei, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten, and Fukurokuju, these deities are widespread in modern Japanese culture, believed to be bearers of fortune and prosperity for the upcoming New Year.

The Diverse Attributes of the Individual Deities

Jurojin: The God of Longevity

Represented by a long head and a conspicuous white beard, Jurojin is a deity borrowed from Taoist-Buddhist traditions in China. He is considered an incarnation of a pole star that bestows longevity.

Ebisu: The God of Prosperity

Ebisu is unique as the only deity native to Japan. He holds an intrinsic place in Japanese mythology as a child of Izanagi and Izanami, deities symbolizing creation and death. Portrayed holding a red seabream under one arm and a fishing rod under another, this deity transforms fishing luck into business prosperity.

Hotei: The God of Happiness

Unlike his counterparts, which are products of divine imagination, Hotei was a real person modeled after a Chinese monk. His pleasant demeanor and hefty sack – said to represent his generous capacity for patience – designates him as the purveyor of happiness.

Benzaiten: The Goddess of Beauty

The sole goddess among the seven lucky gods hails from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon in India. Benzaiten combines talent with fortune while radiating beauty like a heavenly nymph with her traditional musical instrument, the biwa. She is usually enshrined near bodies of water.

Bishamonten: The God Defender Against Evil Spirits

Bishamonten is a stoic warrior deity tasked with defending humanity against evil spirits. Despite hailing from India’s Hindu-Buddhist pantheon, he brings blessings akin to other lucky gods into Japanese worship routines.

Daikokuten: The God of Agriculture

This friendly-faced god carries a mallet that is thought to bring good fortune and a large sack filled with happiness. Sitting atop his bag of rice signifies his position as the god advocating good harvests.

Fukurokuju: The God of Wisdom

Similar to Jurojin yet distinct in his own right, Fukurokuju holds symbols reflective of his domain – wisdom; this includes scrolls denoting wisdom alongside staffs indicative of leadership skills. Much like his counterpart’s promise of longevity (denoted by his name), Fukurokuju offers happiness in high societal statuses.

A Pilgrimage Promising Fortune – Shichifukujin-Meguri

Embarking on pilgrimages related to the Seven Lucky Gods is customary around New Year. Traditionally named Shichifukujin-Meguri, collecting stamps (Joshua) from each temple or shrine dedicated to each deity is said to incur blessings all year round.

The pilgrimage dates back to the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), specifically seen in Kyoto’s oldest known pilgrimage, the Miyako Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Although sequentially visiting all participating temples could consume nearly an entire day due to the considerable distances separating them, today, completing these quests remains strong evidence testifying to believers’ fervor in securing good fortune annually.

On New Year’s Day till after ten days into the year, you can imbibe local tradition by visiting individual shrines dedicated to each deity among Seven Lucky Gods at numerous locations throughout Tokyo, including Yanaka Nihonbashi Shinagawa areas.

While more geared towards individuals interested in immersing themselves in local culture rather than organized groups, it does make for an interesting experience exploring Tokyo on foot during this time.

Discover the Shimokitazawa Tengu Festival during the Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage, an Unforgettable Blend of Tradition and Celebration.

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