Seven Gods of Good Fortune

Jan 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: History & Culture

In Japan you will often hear about the Seven Gods of Good Fortune or Seven Lucky Gods which are commonly know in Japan as Shichi Fukujin (literally “seven happiness beings”). You may even see walking tours dedicated to the Seven Lucky Gods in the the city you are visiting – almost every city in Japan has a group of temples and shrines that are dedicated to the fortuitous septuplets.

If you are like me you will find the shichi fukujin a little bit mysterious at first.  But, after hearing about them a few times, and seeing the same images depicted in various forms over and over again you may start to recognize then and become curious as to their significance in Japan.

Who are the Seven Gods of Good Fortune?

The Seven Gods of Good Fortune are creatures of Japanese mythology and folklore that have been passed down over centuries.  Many of these deities have roots in China and India and came to Japan with Buddhism in the 6th century.  Some of the myths associated with them have changed slightly over time but they still hold and important place in the hearts of the Japanese people and it’s culture to this day.

Seven Lucky Gods Japan

Images of the shichi fukujin can be found at festivals and are present at other joyous occasions throughout the country – look for them on kumade, lucky rakes, purchased in November each year to ensure happiness and good fortune for the upcoming year, as well as on ema (prayer plaques), netsuke carvings, and all sorts of trinkets that can be found at tourist shops, temples and shrines.

Here is a brief introduction to the Seven Gods of Good fortune as pictured above, starting from the left.

Hotei is know of as the God of Happiness, or more commonly the Laughing Buddha, and is magnanimous and known to be generous with the gifts that he carries slung over his shoulder in cloth bag that is said to never empty. He is often referred to as the Santa of Japan.

Jyuroujin is the the God of longevity and is usually presented as an old man with a staff.  He may also be accompanied with animals that represent long life such as deer, cranes or tortoises.

Fukurokujuzin is the God of happiness, wealth and longevity and it is said that he is a philosopher who can survive without eating.

Bishimon is the God of warriors and and is often portrayed with a spear in one hand and a small pagoda in the other, said to symbolize the treasure house, which he guards and from which he bestows gifts upon the faithful.

Benzai is actually a Goddess whose name means flowing water.  As such she is the deity of grace or charm but is also know as Benten, the Goddess of knowledge, art and beauty and music – everything that can be said to flow.

Daikoku is considered the God of the household, particularly the kitchen, or the God of wealth.  He often caries a mallet called a Uchide Nokozuchi, commonly referred to in English as a magic money mallet, and is commonly depicted seated on bales of rice.   An image of Daikoku was featured on the first Japanese banknote in 1885.

Ebisu is the deity associated with fishers and merchants.  He is often depicted laughing and has a big belly.  Yebisu Beer, brewer by Sapporo, is named after this auspicious deity. and an image of him adorns the label in a traditional pose holding a fishing rod and a seam bream.

The shichi fukujin or Seven Gods of Good Fortune are often found depicted on their ship, the Takarabune (Treasure Ship) as seen below.

Takarabune Japan Treasur Ship

Seven Lucky God Tours

Seven Deities Tour Course in Kawagoe, approximately an hour outside of Tokyo.

Seven Lucky Gods Tour of Yanaka, in Tokyo

A Tour of the Seven Lucky Gods in Shinjuku (Tokyo)

Look for Seven Lucky God walking tours in other Japanese cities when you visit.  It’s a great way to explore temples and shrines that you may not otherwise visit and it’s a bit like a treasure hunt, although you won’t be taking the Takarabune.

Image Credit:  Wikimedia, Shichi fukujin & Flickr, wooden votive plaque (1/3): Seven Lucky Gods #8722

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  1. Great posting. I can never remember these god’s names or what they stand for.

    I wonder if some Japanese people’s fascination with large ear lobes comes from these gods. I think I have heard that somewhere before.

  2. Can u please tell me the significance of the seven lucky gods

  3. […] lovely island temple in the heart of Tokyo is dedicated to the only goddess among the Seven Gods of Good Fortune:  Bentendo.  The name Benzai means flowing water and she is the deity of grace or charm who is […]

  4. […] monetary terms. The Zeniarai Bentzaiten Ugafuku Jinja (shrine) is dedicated to Benzai, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, who is revered as the Goddess of knowledge, art and beauty, music and anything that can be said to […]

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