The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan represent good fortune when it comes to Japanese folklore and mythology. Most of them came from India and China and are often seen in many carvings from ancient trees and other representations all throughout the country. You can also see them carved in rows of rice storehouses in Hida which people popularly call the Forest of the Seven Lucky Gods.
These carved statues are of great importance to the Japanese culture and they all have unique attributes.
- Hotei is the god of abundance and good health. He looks happy and fat all the time.
- Jurojin is the god of long life and is depicted as an old man of slight nature.
- Fukurokuju is the god of happiness, wealth and longevity. He is portrayed as a bald man with long whiskers.
- Bishamonten is the god of warriors. He is seen as the guardian of the places where Buddha spread his teachings.
- Benzaiten is the goddess of knowledge, art and beauty as well as music. She has a syncretic entity consisting of both Buddhist and Shinto side. Daikokuten is the god of wealth, commerce and trade. He is also known as the god of great blackness and darkness.
- Ebisu is the god of fishers and merchants. He is the only god purely originating from Japan.
Hida is a beautiful place in the Gifu Prefecture which is surrounded by many forests and people have long been using trees for architectural development. There was one man named Nobuo Kuratsubo who had a huge dream of creating the world’s tallest wood carving. He got his inspiration upon coming across an old (about 700 years old) fallen cedar tree which was 8 meters tall. It was hit by a thunderbolt and was no use for making furniture due to its condition. He bought the tree and took it home. He kept looking at it quite a few times when Daikokuten suddenly appeared from the tree carrying a huge bag which then motivated him into carving the tree with his friends Satobee-san and Ensho-san who know a lot about sculptures.
However, Nobuo was disappointed that his large wooden structures didn’t push through Guinness World Records as there were larger ones built in Canada. Still, he continues to polish the statues and finds more revelation in his dreams.
If you want to visit the place, you can take the Sarunopopo Bus from Takayama station. The admission fee is 500 yen per person. Departure times are set at 30 minutes apart from 9:20 in the morning. Return buses are at the same time.