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The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan I

In myths and folklore of a culture, there are certain gods or entities that are looked upon as being good luck. For the Japanese, it is the Seven Gods of Fortune (also known as the Seven Lucky Gods), who appear in a variety of carvings and other artistic depictions throughout the years. In this article, you will learn more about the seven gods believed to bring good fortune.

The seven gods all possess a traditional attribute of their own.

1. Hotei is the fat and happy god of abundance and good health. He is known in other countries , called Budai in China and Bo Dai in Vietnam. Westerners will call Hotei the Fat Buddha or Laughing Buddha because of his cheerful face and large belly. Some see the god as a guardian of children, as well as a patron of bartenders.

Carrying a large cloth bag over his back, the god feeds the poor and needy. The bag never empties. In addition to a never-ending supply of food and drink, the bag contains endless treasures. The literal meaning of ‘Hotei’ in Japanese is ‘cloth bag.’ The god is also seen holding a Chinese fan in his hand, which is said to give out wishes. In the past, this kind of fan was a symbol of the aristocracy , they would wave the fan to indicate that the requests of vassals would be made.

In the case of Hotei, the god is thought to be based on a real person , a 10th-century Chinese Buddhist monk and hermit named Budaishi. He was believed to be the incarnation of Miroku Bodhisattva. In art depictions, Hotei sometimes appears with a group of small children surrounding him , bouncing around his roundness in complete delight.

2. Jurojin is the god of longevity and wisdom that is connected to China’s Tao. The Chinese described the god as an immortal who was the personification of the southern polar star.
The tall Jurojin uses a staff to walk and holds a fan in his hand. A scroll is tied to his staff, where the lifespan of all living things is written down. Some say that the good and bad deeds of all beings are also recorded on the scroll. The old man has a long white beard and a bald head.

At his side, a deer is often seen as his messenger , the creature is a symbol of longevity. Other animals that often enjoy long lives, such as the crane and tortoise, are often associated with this god. In many myths, Jurojin and Fukurokuju (the god of happiness, wealth and longevity) are often connected to one another , as the two gods are believed to share the same body. The legends of Jurojin often depict him as a lover of wine and enjoyed being surrounded by females.