Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I found this eclectic tableau at the entrance to Suisei-en on the yamanobenomichi.
The figure on the far left is Hotei, one of Japan's 7 Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin), and is associated with abundance and good health. He came from China where he is named Budai, and is also known as the laughing Buddha, which is the name I associate him with as I had a small statue of him when I was young.
The gentleman in the middle back is Fukurokuju, another member of the Shichi Fukujin, and he is associated with wisdom and longevity and probably derives from a Chinese star God, Shou.
To the right stand 2 tanuki, who are not gods or kami, but have existed in Japanese folklore since ancient times as shape-shifters. They are also associated with good fortune.
In the center are Daikoku and Ebisu, both members of the Shichi Fukujin and often equated with Okuninushi and Kotoshironushi. Daikoku is the god of wesalth, commerce , and trade, and is derived from the Hindu God Shiva. Ebisu is the god of fishing and merchants, and is usually believed to be the only one of the Shichi Fukujin not from India or China.
The 2 snakes in the front I'm not sure about. Snakes have many connotations in Japan, especially water, so they may be representations of Benzaiten, one of the Shichifukujin associated with music, art, and eloquence. Based on a Hindu River God, Saraswati.