18 April 2023
Tokyo's Hidden Tour: Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage
As entry restrictions lessen, Tokyo seems to be getting back to its usual bustle with tourists from abroad.
Exploring Tokyo can be daunting thanks to the huge array of attractions and activities on offer. But those who have already visited Japan multiple times may wish to discover a different part of the city by adding a cultural twist to their sightseeing.
For those who do, we would like to introduce the "Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage" walking tour. In this tour, you will visit shrines and temples dedicated to the Seven Gods of Good Fortune and learn about the Japanese customs and spirituality associated with them.
When we decided to tour the Seven Gods of Good Fortune in Tokyo, we considered two major areas, Shinjuku and Meguro. We ultimately chose Shinjuku because there was a tourist information center near the station with a good English website and leaflets. Now, let me take you on a three-hour journey!
- Shinjuku Tourist Information
- Taisoji Temple - Hotei
- Inarikio-jinja Shrine - Ebisu
- Eifukuji Temple - Fukurokuju
- Nishimuki Tenjinsha Shrine/ Itsukushima-jinja-Shrine - Benzaiten
- Hozenji Temple - Jurojin
- Kyooji Temple -Daikokuten
- Zenkoji Temple - Bishamonten
Shinjuku Tourist Information
First, pick up a map and "Goshuin-cho" (a red ink stamp book) at the Tourist Information Center in the Southeast Exit of Shinjuku Station.
Goshuin are unique red ink stamps that can act as proof to have visited certain temples and shrines. Every location has its own individual design, making them special mementos from your travels.
For more information about the tour and to download the map, please visit this site.To See More About This Tour
Taisoji Temple - Hotei
The first stop after passing through the shopping area of Shinjuku is Taisoji Temple.
This temple enshrines the deity Hotei.
He is the only one of the Seven Gods who actually existed, and is said to have been modeled after Kaishi, a Zen monk who lived during Tang Dynasty in China. He is believed to have been added to the Seven Gods because of his appearance filled with happiness and virtue. His long earlobes are a sign of high spirituality. He also carries a big sac called "Kannin-bukuro (sac of endurance)", and uses a fan to ward off evil spirits. He is the god of good health, and also brings matrimonial happiness and financial fortune.
Key items: big sac and big belly
When you arrive at the temple or shrine, you must first cleanse your hands.
Then pray in a place called "Hondo," the main hall, where the principal image is enshrined.
First, gently place your money in the offering box. After that, you should place your palms together in front of your chest and make a wish to the Buddha in your heart. Finally, bow again.
Afterwards, make your way to the temple office for a statue of Hotei and a Goshuin. You may be able to have it written out with a brush, but don't worry; should there not be someone available, you will receive a paper copy of the stamp itself. When it comes to Goshuin, there is more than one type; therefore, you should indicate that you would like the "Goshuin for the seven gods of good fortune" when ordering.
I also bought a treasure ship with seven gods of good fortune as a good decoration!
Inarikio-jinja Shrine - Ebisu
Next we went to Inarikio-jinja Shrine, which enshrines Ebisu.
Among the seven gods, Ebisu is the only god native to Japan. Originally worshipped as a god of fishery, he later came to be worshipped as a god of commerce and business, and a god of fertility of crops.
Key items: sea bream and fishing rod
Since this is a shrine, the method of praying is different from that of Taisoji Temple. When you proceed to the offering box, ring the bell two or three times to indicate that you have come to visit the shrine. After placing your money in the box, bow deeply twice and clap your hands twice. Then, express your gratitude to gods and bow one last time.
Eifukuji Temple - Fukurokuju
At the next Eifukuji temple, a delightful sight met the eye - lovely double-flowering cherry trees in full bloom. "Someiyoshino," the most renowned kind of cherry blossom, had already reached its peak and most petals were now on the ground; however, it was a pleasant surprise to witness the beauty of these blossoms at a slightly different time of year.
Here, we were shown the actual writing of Goshuin. It was very refreshing to see him write beautiful letters with a single stroke without hesitation.
Eifukuji Temple enshrines Fukurokuju.
Fukurokuju was a Taoist god, and added to the Seven Gods as a representative of the god of benevolence; who possesses three virtues of happiness, fortune and longevity.
Key items: crane, elongated head
Nishimuki Tenjinsha Shrine/ Itsukushima-jinja-Shrine - Benzaiten
We visited here because Goshuin for Benzaiten are distributed at Nishimuki Tenjinsha Shrine except from January 1 to 7.
As you can see, tall camphor trees encircle its main hall, creating a tranquil environment.
From January 1-7, Itsukushima-jinja Shrine provides Goshuin to visitors. The shrine is home to Benzaiten, making it a great location to visit after Nishimuki Tenjinsha Shrine. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the trip this time around; a missed opportunity indeed.
Benzaiten is the only female god among the Seven Gods. It is said to have been modeled after the Indian goddess Saraswati (God of water) but with the time, she had become the god of arts, wisdom, and wealth.
Key items: "Biwa" (Japanese lute) and celestial maiden’s dress
Hozenji Temple - Jurojin
Hozenji Temple is located in a hilly area and the surrounding area is intricate, so it is easier to find if you follow the route as shown on the map. We went from the back cemetery side and got a little lost.
They worship Jurojin, who was modeled after the Chinese philosopher Laozi or Lao-tzu, who was said to be ascended to heaven and became mountain hermit. He is accompanied by a deer that lives three thousand years, and holds a cane with a scroll attached to it and a peach.
Key items: cane and peach
Kyooji Temple -Daikokuten
This temple is devoted to Daikokuten, a god well-known for keeping bad luck and malevolent spirits away.
Daikokuten had his roots in India and was a god of war and military affairs. However, when Buddhism arrived in the Nara period (c. 710-794), he was regarded as a god of Okuninushi (the god of nation-building who created a large country in Izumo), and became a smiling god, a complete change from his previous scary appearance. He is the god of commerce and wealth.
Key items: big sac and wooden mallet
When I talked to the woman at the reception desk, she told me that she was happy to see more and more travelers from overseas visiting this Seven Gods of Good Fortune pilgrimage again recently.
Here you can shake the Uchide no Kozuchi (Mallet of Luck) held by Daikokuten, so please try it for good luck! It is quite heavy!
There are many temples in this area, and there are about three temples clustered next to each other, so be sure to use the photos to help you find the right temple!
Zenkoji Temple - Bishamonten
Zenkoji Temple is far from Kyooji Temple, so the path was quite long, but it was interesting to see how lively the area became as one approached Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station from Ushigome-Yanagicho Station. Kagurazaka has been a prosperous area for a long time and is still lined with many restaurants. It is a town of narrow streets and historic slopes, where one can feel the atmosphere of Edo (old Tokyo).
It is located on a busy street called "Kagurazaka-dori(street)," and its red gate and main hall are impressive landmarks. In the Edo period (c.1603-1867), the temple was crowded with fair days, and in the mid-Meiji period (1868-1912), night stalls were set up here. "Komainu (guardian dogs)" in the shape of tigers have also become a specialty.
The deity enshrined here is Bishamonten. Bishamonten was an Indian god, and is one of the members of Four Heavenly Kings, the protector of Buddhism. He is the god of war, and also brings blessings such as money, learning, business, victory, and also drives away evil spirits.
Key items: armor and miniature pagoda
Tokyo's hidden gems
Though we often pass by them without much contemplation, the numerous temples and shrines found in Japan have great importance. Taking the time to understand the significance of each one can truly turn a regular visit into an unforgettable experience. Moreover, the red stamps and statues that you collect at each of these sites will be pleasant mementos to remind you of your journey long after returning home.
For an ideal outing, come to this tour and experience the beauty of the cherry blossoms in springtime and the autumn leaves in fall! On a sunny day, it's an unforgettable sight.
Yoneda Yuzan Kiln Kutani Seven Lucky Gods and Treasure BoatView This Item