Ebisu (mythology)

Ebisu (恵比須, 恵比寿, 夷, 戎), also transliterated Yebisu (ゑびす, see historical kana orthography) or called Hiruko (蛭子) or Kotoshiro-nushi-no-kami (事代主神), is the Japanese god of fishermen and luck. He is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神 Shichifukujin), and the only one of the seven to originate purely from Japan without any Hindu or Chinese influence.

Origins as Hiruko

Statue of Ebisu in Kesennuma, Japan

In medieval times, Ebisu's origin came to be tied together with that of Hiruko - the first child of Izanagi and Izanami, born without bones (or, in some stories, without arms and legs) due to his mother's transgression during the marriage ritual. Hiruko struggled to survive but, as he could not stand, he was cast to the sea in a boat of reeds before his third birthday.[1] The story tells that Hiruko eventually washed ashore—possibly in Ezo (蝦夷, ancient Hokkaidō)—and was cared for by the Ainu Ebisu Saburo (戎三郎). It is however believed that Ebisu first arose as a god among fishermen, and that his origin as Hiruko was a much later conception, after the worship of him had spread to merchants and others. It is also theorized that he was originally a god known as "Kotoronushi no Mikoto", son of Ōkuninushi.[2]


Stature of Ebisu in front of Ebisu Station, Tokyo

The weak child overcame many hardships, grew legs (and, presumably, the rest of his skeletal structure) at the age of three, and became the god Ebisu. He remains slightly crippled and deaf, but mirthful and auspicious nonetheless (hence the title, "The laughing god"). He is often depicted wearing a tall hat—the Kazaori Eboshi (風折烏帽子)—holding a rod and a large red sea bream or sea bass. Jellyfish are also associated with the god and the fugu restaurants of Japan will often incorporate Ebisu in their motif.

Cultural relevance

Ebisu's festival is celebrated on the twentieth day of the tenth month, Kannazuki (the month without gods). While the other myriad of members of the Japanese pantheon gather at The Grand Shrine of Izumo, Ebisu does not hear the summons and is thus still available for worship.

Ebisu is frequently paired with Daikokuten, another of the seven gods of Fortune, in displays of the twin patrons by small shopkeepers. In some versions of the myth they are father and son (or master and apprentice). Also, these two are often joined by Fukurokuju as the "Three Gods of Good Fortune".

As a form of animal worshiping, Ebisu was often referred to marine megafaunas such as whales and whale sharks (hence being also called as "Ebisu-Shark") that bring mass of fish and protect fishermen.[3][4]

Ebisu is depicted or parodied in a wide range of media, from artwork to costumed impersonations at local festivals and in commercial logos and advertisements. One of the most widely recognized product logos is in association with Yebisu beer, which was first brewed in 1890, and is currently brewed by Sapporo Brewery.

Ebisu also lent his name to the clothing brand Evisu.

In other media

In the manga and anime Noragami, Ebisu is impersonated by Kofuku, a goddess with the form of a young, pink-haired girl and has a very eccentric, loving, and clumsy personality. She is actually the goddess of poverty, and in certain circumstances acquires a more intimidating personality, to the point of intimidating the goddess of war, Bishamon (Vaiśravaṇa). The real Ebisu, introduced later in the story, has the form of a well-dressed young man, and he is actually the god Hiruko.


  1. B.H. Chamberlain, translator (1882). "Kojiki". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  2. Encyclopedia Nipponica (Shogakukan): "えびす"
  3. 村上健司 編著 (2005). 日本妖怪大事典. Kwai books. 角川書店. p. 182. ISBN 978-4-04-883926-6.
  4. 大藤時彦他 (1955). 民俗学研究所編, ed. 綜合日本民俗語彙. 第2巻. 柳田國男 監修. 平凡社. p. 763.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/21/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.