Archive for the ‘Benzaiten’ Category

Guidebook to Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods – August 2013

Sunday, August 25th, 2013
Jump to the INTRO PAGE for Japan'S Seven Lucky Gods

Cutified modern drawing of the Seven Luckies. Click image to get started.

Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods (Shichifukujin 七福神) are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China.  Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu). Three are deva from India’s Hindu pantheon (Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten) and three are gods from China’s Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju).  In my mind, it is more fruitful to explore the seven within a Deva-Buddha-Kami (Hindu-Buddhist-Shintō) matrix rather than a standard binary Buddha-Kami model. For that reason, special emphasis is given to the three Hindu deva. Although the group’s Japanese origin can be traced back to the 15th century, the set of seven did not become stadardized until the late 17th century.  By the 19th century, most major cities had developed special pilgrimage circuits for the seven. These pilgrimages remain well trodden in contemporary times, but many people now use cars, buses, and trains to move between the sites.  Today images of the seven appear with great frequency in Japanese art and media, but unlike olden times, the seven are now often portrayed as cute, lovable and childlike.  The “cutification” of religious icons in modern Japan is widespread and part of a much larger social trend toward cuteness in billboard advertising, corporate branding, sports mascots, street fashion, product design, and a host of other areas. This integrated primer explores the seven’s historical development in Japanese art and lore.  Enjoy.  Popcorn not included.

Guidebook to Japan's Seven Lucky Gods. Click image to get started.

Guidebook to Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods. Click image to get started.


Statues of these deities can be purchased at our sister site,




Buddha Statues & Japan – April 2012

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Hello Readers.
The April newsletter features the first-ever “comprehensive”
web guide to Japan’s water goddess Benzaiten. Many years
went into its production. I hope it will augment the efforts
of students, teachers, art historians, and scholars of Benzaiten
art and lore for years to come. Wait one or two minutes to
let the page load fully into your browser — it’s a big page with
lots of photos. Once loaded, you can begin your Benzaiten
adventure by clicking images for enlarged views & commentary.
The only thing missing is popcorn.

Benzaiten Guidebook. 68 pages, 250 images.

Benzaiten is Japan’s preeminent water goddess. The patroness of “all things that flow” — music, art, literature, poetry, discourse, performing arts — she is one of Japan’s most complex deities, having long ago been conflated with other divinities from the Hindu, Buddhist, and Japanese pantheons. Her worship in Japan is widespread. Her many forms range from a two-armed beauty playing music to an eight-armed martial deity holding weapons to a monstrous three-headed snake to a divine representation of Amaterasu (the supreme Shintō sun goddess). This lavishly illustrated and meticulously referenced guidebook offers a wealth of visual and textual data.

  1. highlights the evolution of Benzaiten’s cult in Japan
  2. explores Benzaiten’s links to dragons, snake, foxes, and wish-granting jewels
  3. provides condensed overviews of her myriad forms in Japanese faith and art
  4. investigates her linkages to other female goddesses in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Shintō camps, including Inari, Amaterasu, Dakini, Nyoirin, and Itsukushima
  5. pays special attention to Benzaiten’s close ties to Hindu deities
  6. presents numerous case studies of Benzaiten’s main sanctuaries in modern Japan.

Click below image to begin the adventure.

Benzaiten in Japanese Art and Lore

Benzaiten in Japanese Art and Lore

Please enjoy.

mark from kamakura


Benzaiten Photo Tour

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Various Statues from Japan.

Origin = India. A river goddess in Hindu mythology, her Sanskrit name “Sarasvatī” means “flowing water” and thus she represents everything that flows (e.g., music, words, speech, eloquence). Later adopted into the Buddhist and then Shinto pantheons of Japan, where she is the Goddess of Music, Poetry, Learning, and Art. She is also a Protector of the Nation and a Patron of Children. For many more details on Benzaiten, see the A-to-Z Photo Dictionary.