Most of the Seven Lucky Gods worshipped in Japan originate from China. But the best loved is Ebisu, the god of fishermen, labourers and commerce, who is purely Japanese. He is known for fair dealing and good fortune. In some versions he was born disabled and,faced and overcame many hardships as he grew up. He still walks with a limp, and he is deaf, but he is full of happiness and laughter. He is often shown wearing a tall hat, and carrying a large fish., and a fishing rod. Whales and sharks are sometimes thought to be Ebisu personifications. People love him because he is one of them – for example, when the other Lucky Gods are gathering in their shrine for a festival, and withdrawing from the world, Ebisu does not hear the call, so he remains on earth to listen to our prayers during this time. Ebisu visits homes at New Year, bringing good luck wherever he goes.
There is a lot of information and images of Ebisu on the internet., and his shrines can be found all over Japan.
Websites: Shrines Hiruko http://www.feel-kobe.jp/_en/sightseeing/spot/?sid=76
If you look up Ebisu Puppet theatre you will find some great videos of Bunraku puppetry (the black clad figures look a bit scary, but they are dressed like this to blend into the background)
•At the Nishinomiya shrine at Ebisu’s festival, there is a race to see who can get first to the shrine.
•Fisher boys traditionally had to show their prowess in diving by fetching up a large stone from the seabed, representing Ebisu. Play this game by using a parachute or lengths of blue nylon/silk to be the sea, and send pupils underneath to retrieve a large object.
•Play some fishing games – rods with magnets. See what you fish up.
•Sing the Ebisu Mai song as you move rhythmically back and forward and bang on drum or sticks.
A little fish I caught it, caught it, caught it
This fish I caught is better
Than a small sardine.
A bigger fish I caught it, caught it, caught it
Good luck will always
Come your way
Turiage, Turiage, Turiageta
(note, this is a rough translation; the tune can be heard on the above youtube link).
©Betty Grove 2016..