The majority of figures that appear in Japanese myths originated from China with some influencing the population through India. Ebisu is the exception , he fully originated from Japan. This deity is known as the god of fishers or merchants, and is typically seen carrying a sea bream. In this article, you will learn more about the god and his place in Japanese folklore.
Not only was Ebisu worshipped as a god of fishermen, luck and the working class, but he was also seen as a guardian of the health of small children. With Ebisu, there is often a legend that is told about his existence.
As a child, Ebisu was weak. He was able to overcome a range of obstacles and as legend has it, he grew legs and the rest of his skeletal self when he was three years old. Some say that this is when he became the god Ebisu. While he was triumphant over his hardships, he remained slightly crippled and deaf. Although he had to deal with such inabilities, he was still a joyful individual. Because of this, he was called the Laughing God.
In artistic depictions, the god is seen wearing a tall hat and holding a rod and a large red bream (or sea bass) in his hand. The god is also associated with jellyfish. There is a festival in Japan that celebrates Ebisu on the 20th day of the 10th month , a time of the year that is referred to as the month without gods.
Fish play an important role in the lives of the Japanese so Ebisu is a rather popular god out of the Lucky Seven. Today, the people see him as a symbol for safe sailing and an abundance of fish. Merchants see the god as good luck for their prosperity. Throughout the country, Ebisu is worshipped at many different sanctuaries. The head shrine of Ebisu worship in Japan is called Nishinomiya Jinja. Since the god is believed to be deaf, it is customary for people to clap their hands before praying to one of the shrine deities. It is their way of getting the attention of the gods.
Ebisu and Daikoku are often paired together on carvings or masks that decorate the walls of small retail shops. There is a myth that states that the two are father and son, while others view the dup as master and apprentice. When matched with Kukurokuju, the three are seen as the “Three Gods of Good Fortune”.
The Seven Lucky Gods
The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan travel aboard a ship called the Takarabune (also known as the ‘Treasure Ship’). Tradition states that the seven gods will come to town on the New Year to pass out amazing gifts to people worthy of the prizes. Children often receive red envelopes decorated with the image of the Takarabune. Inside, they find gifts of money. In artworks, the Takarabune and the deities appear all over the country , from the walls of museums to the common kitchen.