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  • SHICHIFUKUJIN

    There are popular Seven Gods in Japan. They are a highly popular group of deities called “ShichiFukuJin” in Japanese and known as “Seven Lucky Gods”. They came from myths and local beliefs that originated in ancient gods from old China, old India, and Japan. The number of 7 is a favorite number for the Japanese and the concept of the group of Seven Gods was settle down in the 15th century in Kyoto, though the original member was unclear. They travel together on their treasure ship known as “TakaraBune” and bring us good fortune. In the 18th century, the Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage during the New Year (Jan.1 to Jan.7) to wish good luck and sleeping with the drawing of the Seven Gods under the pillow on the night of January 1st became very popular. It is said that the current seven members were standardized around the 18th century.It is believed the Seven Gods bring you good luck and each deity has its special fortune to make people happy.Daikoku Ten 大黒天 = Daikoku God The God of agriculture, farmers, rich harvest, commerce, and trade. He has a happy-looking face, wears a Zukin (a big hat) and carries a treasure sack over his shoulder, holds a magic mallet, stands on bales of rice.Ebisu Ten 恵比寿天= Ebisu God The only God purely originated from Japan, the God of the ocean, fishing, good business. He holds a large red sea bream in his left hand and a fishing rod on the right and wears a tall hat. After the worship was spread to merchants and farmers, Ebisu has become a god of success in business. Some might know a station called Ebis on JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo. One of the largest beverage companies of Japan “Sapporo Holdings” used to have a brewery in this Ebis area and established its popular beer “Yebis” in the late 19th century. As shipments increased, they built a station only for transporting the Yebis beer, afterward opened for passenger service and named it Ebis station. A statue of Ebis God is placed outside of the west gate of the station and there is a Ebis shrine nearby.Benzai Ten 弁財天 = Benzai GodThe Goddess of knowledge, art, music, language, letters, river, water, and marriage. She plays a Biwa (a traditional Japanese lute) and often stays in the lotus.Bisyamon Ten 毘沙門天 = Bisyamon God The God of victory, defense, guardian, business, treasure, and health. He dresses in armor and holds a weapon in one hand and a treasure pagoda in another. Hotei Son 布袋尊  = Hotei God The God of happiness, abundance, good health, and family. He has a cheerful face with a big belly, carries a big cloth sack filled with treasure on his back, and holds a fan in his hands. Jurouzin 寿老人 = Jurouzin God The God of longevity, wisdom, and happiness. He has a long white beard, wears a unique hat, holds a long wooden cane in one hand and often a peach or a handscroll in another, and accompanies by a stag.Fukurokuju 福禄寿 = Fukurokuju GodThe God of longevity, wealth, and happiness. He looks similar to Jurouzin, but Fukurokuju has a bald with an elongated forehead and holds a long wooden cane tied with a handscroll in one hand and accompanies by a crane and a turtle. ShichiFukuJin Meguri 七福神巡り = the Seven Lucky Gods PilgrimageShichiFukuJin Meguri is one of the most popular customs during the New Year. It is to visit the seven gods at shrines or temples and collect stamps on the special notebook called GoshuinCho. Major cities in Japan have some ShichiFukuJin walking courses, for example, Tokyo has more than 20 routes. Yanaka route is the oldest and Nihonbashi is the shortest. Many shrines and temples only offer the memorial Seven Gods' stamps during the New Year, but anybody can visit those shrines and temples anytime.Here is the map of the walking route used for Nihonbashi ShichiFukuJin Meguri this time. Starting from Suitengumae station (Z10) of Hanzomon line or Ningyocho station (H14) of Hibiya line or Ningyocho line (A14) of Asakusa line, around one to two hours' walk from ① to ⑦, except for the New Year's period.If you are interested in ShichiFukuJin tours and would like to know more, please contact Japantotheworld.com. We are willing to help planning it for you.    

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  • HONJO NANA FUSHIGI

    Like there are many ‘the seven wonders of --- ‘ in the world, Tokyo also has several mysterious stories. Today, we will introduce some famous ghost stories of the Shitamachi area called ‘the Seven Wonders of Honjo.’ 本所 – HONJO = HONJO七 – NANA = Seven 不思議 – FUSHIGI = WondersFirst of all, let’s have a look at Honjo Area. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Honjo was developed as a new residential area along with Fukagawa. You might have heard the Japanese word of ‘Shitamachi 下町,’ which means the downtown areas with a unique and nostalgic atmosphere in the Eastern part of Tokyo, generally represents Asakusa 浅草, Shitaya 下谷, Honjo 本所, Fukagawa 深川.The Seven Wonders of Honjo was set in the area between Ryogoku 両国 and Kinshicho 錦糸町 in Sumida Ward 墨田区.As is often the case with this kind of folktales, the Seven Wonders of Honjo has more than seven stories, and there are many opinions on how to group them. The following seven stories are officially announced as the Seven Wonders of Honjo by the Sumida City Office.1)  OitekeBori 2)  OkuriChochin 3)  AkarinashiSoba / KiezunoAndon 4)  TanukiBayashi / BakaBayashi 5)  TsugarunoTaiko 6)  OchibanakiShii 7)  KatabanoAshiNow, let’s look at each story. OitekeBori 置いてけ堀 There used to be an old pond at the area presently called Kinshicho in Sumida ward. When people were about to go home after fishing, they heard a spooky voice whispering “Oiteke, Oiteke” (means “leave it behind and go away!”). Surprised and run away, they eventually found no fish left in the fish basket when arrived home. Some people believed the voice was Kappa making fun of fisher. Kappa is a human-like specter living in a pond, canals and river. It has Sara (a plate) on its head that needs to retain water, loves cucumbers and Sumo (sumo wrestling).   OkuriChochin 送り提灯 Walking on the alley in the night without a lantern, they saw a dim light in the distance. When they tried to come closer, it suddenly disappeared and shown up again even further away. They never could catch up with the light. OkuriHyoushigi 送り拍子木 Night patrol went around the village hitting wooden clappers to warn people living in the area to watch out for fire. They heard the same clapping sound following, but no one was there behind when they looked back. AkarinashiSoba 燈無蕎麦 / KiezunoAndon 消えずの行灯 There used to be some Soba noodle stalls along a drainage channel called HonjoMinamiWarigesui (present Hokusai Avenue). One of the stalls, for some reason, always had light-off and nobody was working. It was said that in case someone turned on the light out of kindness, something terrible would occur to this person afterward. Even if someone only dropped by out of curiosity, the person would be cursed. Quite the opposite, we have another similar story called KiezunoAndon. It is a story about a spooky Soba noodle stand with never going-off light. If someone tried to put it out, the person would get misfortune.  AshiAraiYashiki 足洗邸 Every night at a manor of Hatamoto (an upper-class Samurai), a dirty hairy giant foot broke through the ceiling and appeared, shouting ‘Wash my foot, wash my foot.’ After being washed, the foot went back to the roof and disappeared. It repeated every night. Once they did not clean it, the foot got furious and rampaged around in the house. The Hatamoto did not know what to do and asked for help from his colleague. The colleague was very curious about the story and offered to swape manors with him. However, no such mysterious phenomenon occurred after the colleague moved in. TanukiBayashi 狸囃子 / BakaBayashi 馬鹿囃子 People heard the sound of the Taiko drums at night. They tried to find from where the sound came, but they could not find anything. TsugarunoTaiko 津軽の太鼓 A Daimyo’s mansion (the house of Tsugaru) had a Taiko drum at the fire observation tower instead of Bangi (a piece of wood). When they found a fire, they boomed the Taiko drum to alarm it instead of striking the Bangi wooden piece. (This would be surely the least-scary story out of seven.) OchibanakiShii 落葉なき椎 A magnificent old chinkapin tree was planted in the garden of a Daimyo’s mansion (the house of Matsuura). The leaves grew thickly like forest and hung over the wall. Strangely no one saw any single piece of leaves dropped. They felt very creepy and said that the leaves of the tree haunted would never fell. KatabanoAshi 片葉の葦 A beautiful girl was living in this area. One knavish living nearby fell in love with her and turned into a stalker, but she ignored and turned away. He got angry and waited in ambush for her at Komadome bridge and killed her. He pruned off her one leg and one arm, then thrown her into the river. Since then, the reeds had grown at this riverside had the leaves with one side only.   It is possible to visit all nine places above in a day. For example, if you start the tour at 10:00, walking from Kinshicho to Ryogoku, you could finish the trip around 16:00. Here is our recommended route for your reference.   Lastly, let us introduce another fun spot for this wondering. YamadaYa 山田屋 is a well-known sweets shop selling tasty Japanese Ningyoyaki 人形焼き in 70 years. Their wrapping paper tells you more about the stories. The shop is just a few minutes’ walk from Kinshicho station.   If you have any questions about Honjo Nana Fushigi 本所七不思議, contact us at japantotheworld.com any time.  

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  • FUJIN RAIJIN - Wind Gods and Thunder Gods -

    The folding screen painting “Wind God and Thunder God Screens” of Kyoto National Museum is called Fujin (wind god) and Raijin (thunder god) Zu (paint) and is registered as a national treasure. The wind god (Fujin at right) blows the wind out of the tare bringing storms and heavy rain to the human world. The thunder god (Raijin at left) plays the drums and produces thunder and lightning.The design of the wind gods was already used for coins at Kushan dynasty (AD 1-3 century) in India and the mural of the wind and thunder gods existed in Dunhuang, China. The wooden statue of the wind and thunder gods was built at Kamakura dynasty (1185-1333) in Japan too and it was placed as a national treasure at a temple called  in Higashiyama, Kyoto. A famous painter Tawaraya Sotatsu modeled Fujin Raijin Zu (Wind God and Thunder God Screens) on the folding screen after this wooden statue. When talking about Fujin Raijin in Japan, most of the people are reminded of the one painted by Tawaraya Sotatsu, though few people do remember of his name together.After Tawaraya Sotatsu, Ogata Korin replicated the painting of the gods (approx. 1711) which was also reproduced by Sakai Hoitsu again (approx. 1821). It is said that Suzuki Kiitsu (a disciple of Sakai Hoitsu) also replicated it afterwards (approx.1830).The motif of Fujin Raijin spread over Japan by these multiple paintings therefore we can see Fujin Raijin in many paints or statues at temples and shrines even now. Fuji Raijin represents the gods for huge harvest and has lived forever in people’s mind for a long time.<Temples and Shrines>Here is the places you can see Fujin Raijin.+ Tokizan Jikouji (都幾山慈光寺観音堂) at Saitama + Sensouji Kaminarimon (浅草寺・雷門) at Tokyo+ Rinnouji Taiyuuinn (輪王寺大猷院 二天門) at Tochigi+  (妙福寺志貴毘沙門天) at Aichi+ Kongouji (金剛寺/紅葉寺) at TokyoThe commemorative 500-yen coin for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics features Fujin (wind gods) and the coin for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics features Raijin (thunder gods).We design and produce various products featuring Fuji Raiji. OEM products also available. Please feel free to contact us if you have any requests or questions on the products.

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