An unusual Japanese print featuring the Gods of Fortune …. probably on rice paper in original wood frame by Kings Road Shop in London.
Japanese God and Goddess
God Izanagi and Goddess Izanami were married to each other. Izanami could give birth to anything. One day she created the island of Japan. Izanami died when she gave birth to the god of fire from deadly burns during labor. By then she had given birth to 14 islands and 35 gods.
God Izanagi was desperate about the loss of his beloved companion and went down to the underworld to search for Izanami. He also found her. Izanami told Izanagi to wait for her. But he should not turn his head and try to look at her until she would be back.
Guess what – of course, the guy did not do what his wife told him and followed her instead. In the palace of the underworld he found her in an appalling condition. Terrified, God Izanagi ran away and blocked the entrance to the underworld with a huge rock so that his wife could not follow him.
The story has a striking similarity to the old Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Do both legends have a common root or did the Greek story, that is at least 2,500 years old come to Japan one day?
Sennin are immortals living in the mountains – some kind of hermits. They are capable of a lot of magic tricks like flying on an animal in the air. Sennin may appear mortals in their dreams. There are about 500 of them. Like in life, only a few of the sennin are frequently mentioned and depicted. The rest belongs to the “silent majority”. By the way, the Japanese mythology knows not only male but female sennin as well. Here are the best known – the sennin celebrities.
Goddess Seiobo – By Keishu Takeuchi 1861-1942
By Keishu Takeuchi 1861-1942
Seiobo is also called the “Queen Mother of the West”. She cultivates a garden of peach trees that blossom only every 1000 years. However one of these peaches eaten, gives eternal life.
Tobosaku is the bad guy in the Japanese mythology who stole not only one, but three peaches out of Seibo’s garden. So he became immortal. No wonder that Tobosaku is always shown as an old man, with a broad smile and a peach in his hand. Happy old man!
Gama is a benign sage with a lot of magical knowledge about pills and drugs. He is always accompanied by a toad and he can assume the shape of a toad. He could also change his skin and become young again.
Chokaro traveled a lot and had an elegant solution to the transportation problem. He had a magic pumpkin. He only had to blow into the pumpkin and out of it came a horse. Chokaro therefore is always shown with a pumpkin of which a horse is peeping out.
Shishi with Tama
Shishi with Tama – By Hideaki Kato born 1954
By Hideaki Kato born 1954
Shishi is a funny-looking being – something like a dog wanting to be a lion. The origins of the shishi character are in China. Shishi dogs are the equivalent of the Chinese foo dog. Shishi were posted right and left of temple and house entrances as guardians. They can also be found on roofs.
Shishi dogs are depicted either with their mouth open (to scare off the evil demons) or with their mouth closed (to keep the good spirits in). The thing that they hold in their hands, which looks like a globe, is called a tama, the Buddhist jewel. A shishi really looks like the perfect watch dog, sorry – watch lion.
The Seven Gods of Luck or Immortals
In the Japanese language, the seven gods of luck are called Shichi Fukujin, which means “seven happiness beings”.