Toward the end of our hike back down Mt. Takao on Monday, we passed this little shrine, so charming with the Jizo statues positioned around it.... But wait, what's this? Seven statues representing the 7 Buddhist gods. Or is it the Seven Dwarves? (gasp -- only an American would say that! Sorry, two years here is not enough to undo a Disney-fied childhood).
Ahem. And now, to redeem myself, here are a few fun facts about the Shichifukujin (literally, "Seven Lucky Gods"), for your cultural edification and mine (totally cribbed from this website):
The Shichifukujin 七福神 are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu) and Japan's indigenous Shinto tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Juroujin, and Fukurokuju).
In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (takara bune 宝船) and dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan's "artificial" creation of the group in the 17th century by a monk named Tenkai, aiming to represent the essential virtues of man, in order to please the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1623-1650 AD).
The virtues (and gods they represent) are:
CANDOR: Ebisu (God of Fishermen, Good Fortune, Commerce and Honest Labor)
FORTUNE: Daikoku (God of Earth, Wealth, Prosperity)
AMIABILITY: Benzaiten (God of Music, Fine Arts, Literature)
MAGNANIMITY: Hotei (God of Contentment and Happiness)
POPULARITY: Fukurokuju (God of Wisdom, Virility and Fertility)
LONGEVITY: Juroujin (God of Longevity) and
DIGNITY: Bishamonten (God of Treasure, War, Warriors)
I'm pretty sure the one in the middle, with the stringed instrument, is Benzaiten, so I don't think the arrangement here is in the same order as above. Can you match each statue with its corresponding god/virtue?