s Takarabune and Seven Lucky Gods of Japan (part 2) - Hull Museums Collections

Takarabune and Seven Lucky Gods of Japan (part 2)

ship of fortune


Candour is represented by Ebisu. Ebisu is the God of Fishermen, Good Fortune, Wealth and Honest Labour. He is the only one of the seven Gods to originate from Japan. He is plump and has a smiling face. He is usually dressed in richly decorated formal court garments and he carries a fishing rod and a fish called Tai which represents plentiful food.

Tai Fish

The Tai fish which accompanies Ebisu is regarded as a good luck fish in Japan. This is because its name rhymes with the word medetai which means auspicious. Also its red colour is thought to be lucky and it is often served at weddings and other festive occasions.
Detail of a Ship of Fortune depicting Daikokuten


Fortune is represented by Daikokuten. Daikokuten is the God of Wealth and prosperity and originates from Indian God of Death, Mahakala. He is the father of Ebisu and like him he is plump and has a smiling face. He is dressed like a wealthy Chinese gentleman and wears a beret. He carries a mallet and a sack full of precious objects. He is known to bring good fortune to those who believe in him.


Amiability is represented by Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the Goddess of Music, Fine Art, Eloquence and Literature. She originates from the Indian Goddess Sarasvati, the Goddess of Music. She is the only female among the seven Gods. She carries a musical instrument called the Biwa and is seen with white snakes surrounding her.


Magnanimity is represented by Hotei. Hotei is the God of Contentment and Happiness and is the incarnation of Bodhisattva Maitreya, a Zen priest from China. He is based on an actual person and was commonly known as the Laughing Buddha. He is bald with a smiling face and fat round belly. He has bristly whiskers and a slim forehead. He carries a large bag that is said to contain a never ending supply of goods necessary for everyday living and rubbing his belly is said to bring good luck.

Ivory ornamental model of a Japanese Ship of Fortune in sail

Good Fortune

The Seven Gods of Fortune all travel together on a fortune ship or Takarabune handing out good fortune to believers in the New Year, this image was popularised in the Edo period. People in this period believed that if a picture of a Takarabune is purchased on New Year's Day and placed under the pillow that night it will bring good fortune for the rest of the year. It was custom to then to set the painting or picture adrift if you had a bad dream to prevent bad luck. This tradition is still carried out today in Japan. Also, children will often receive red envelopes with an image of the takarabune on it which contains money in the New Year.