Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ebisu Festival

Ebisu is one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. He's the dude carrying the giant sea bream and a fishing rod. The one with the great big smile on his face. (He's also known as The Laughing God.) Ebisu is thought of as the god of fishermen, good luck and laborers.

His story is creepy-cool. One version says that he used to be called Hiruko no Mikoto (note: Hiruko means leech child) and is the third son of the two gods that formed Japan. He was born without any bones and by the age of three was thrown into the ocean by his truly un-understanding parents. Still, he was able to make it back to shore and from then on was raised by a man named Ebisu Saburo. Soon Little Leech Boy managed to grow a skeletal system and become the god Ebisu. Despite his dysfunctional childhood, he is a jolly fellow, although some say he has a limp and is slightly deaf.

My town's main industry is fishing so Ebisu is an important symbol for the fishermen and dock workers. There is even a shrine dedicated to him.

Once a year in November the roads in front of the train station close down and an all-day/all-night festival dedicated to Ebisu erupts. This year I decided to go early before the nighttime crowds showed up.

Here you can see the stalls selling all sorts of goodies lining both sides of the street. By nightfall you can hardly walk for all the people. Half of them drunk. It really is a lively celebration.

The main reason everyone goes to the festival is to buy the good luck charms that are sold. Charms insuring good fortune, good health, and good wealth. Oh yeah, they also go to visit the small shrine dedicated to Ebisu to pay their respects. Maybe some go just to get drunk.

Here is a good luck charm of Ebisu and Daitokoku (another one of the Seven Lucky Gods). Ebisu is in the red hat. They could be twins.

Here hang all sorts of other good luck accessories for sale. The whole festival is so jangly and colorful, lots of gold and red.

Here are some other fun things I found for sale.


This guy is selling super balls for the kids. Children pay a few hundred yen and get a ladle that they use to scoop up as many super balls as they can.

Chocolate, strawberry and melon dipped bananas. With sprinkles!

And a stall that sold chicken steaks displayed several rubber chickens strung up by their necks.
And if you didn't think all the above was reason enough to respect a leech boy turned god. Remember that Ebisu is also the image character for Yebisu beer.

Yah, baby.


Anonymous said...

All seven of those gods are pretty cool: warrior, philosopher, carpenter, musician, fisherman, story-teller, and scholar(?). I don't know the stories behind any of them, or even if that's what they are, but I like the statues. I got a set to go along with the other gods I've been collecting.
I'm serving the Turkey god here in a couple of days. You're welcome to the ceremonial feast.

Kappa no He said...

Yum! Yum! More like the COlonel Sanders god here, ya know. I'm going to see if there are any pics up. How are the pups?

Tigermama said...

I was wondering about the beer connection.

At least those chickens are rubber. Come here and you can see the real thing...with or without feathers (and heads!). :)

Kappa no He said...

Tigermama, had those puppies been any sort of real I don't think we'd have stopped to partake in some teriyaki chicken steak.

Pat said...

I couldn't tell from the link - since it was in Japanese! - what town do you live in?

That festival looks like a ton of fun...but then, I don't know any unhappy fishermen!

Kappa no He said...

Pat, sorry about that. There were like no decent links to my town. It's Yaizu, btw. I think I need to search the net again. There has to be something. And you have got a point about the fishermen!

plaidearthworm said...

Geez, that sounds like fun! Right now, getting drunk with a whole town and scooping up good luck charms sounds like a high ol' time. Sure beats everyone grumbling about the weather! :)

Kappa no He said...

Oh, you should see the summer festival! But, yeah, now that you mention is everyone getting drunk together is a pleasant sort of bonding experience here. (Except all the men peeing on telephone poles.)

Hilary said...

You've written all about the god of the fisherman and Frank hasn't sniffed this out yet? I'm so disappointed!

Very interesting, Terrie - and wonderful, colourful photos.

Womanin a Window said...

What a really fun looking festival. I'm struck though, with how strange it is in any belief based festival to buy plastic good-luck symbols that are mass produced in a factory. Does that seem strange to you? I mean, it happens all the time all over the world, I just think sometimes we humans are full through and through with folly.

(LOVE learning about other cultures. Don't let me disuade you.)

Kappa no He said...

Hilary, yeah, totally waiting for Frank to show up. Maybe I should have put up some fishy pictures.

Womaninthewindow, what surprises me even more is the cost of those things!! Albeit some are affordable and make cute household decorations. But some...

Frank Baron said...

The wait is over. ;)

I've often referred to/prayed to/grumbled at the Great Angler and now I can put a name and a face to him! Thanks Terrie! :)

Wonderfully colourful pics too. It looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for the vicarious visit. :)

Matt D said...

That is freakin' awesome.

It looks very red.

I'm glad you said those were bananas. The picture makes them look like something else.

Anonymous said...

Pat- You can get a rough translation of the Yaizu page using Alta Vista's Babelfish translator. It's good enough to figure out things on a page like that.

Kappa-The puppies are getting big fast. Momo had to remind me that we've only had them a little over a month.I was talking to the vet about the akita. I told him we chose a smaller female so she would only be about 70 lbs, but he said that she's growing like a 100 lb dog. Oops!

Kappa no He said...

Frank, and may he always grant you an abundant catch.

Matt, oh yes, the bananas are nothing, you should see some items they sell at these things. What people do in the name of fertility.

Imomo, I went and looked at the videos. They are darling! They both have the best little faces. I noticed the boxer (Yak?) had a cute little jacket (it must be getting cold there). Come winter Jupiter surely won't be getting chilled! I bet everyone will be sleeping with her.

Ello said...

How cool! And the food must be awesome! That's what I want to go to those festivals for. To eat my face off!

Mary Witzl said...

I always get so nostalgic reading your blog. I love those Otafuku masks -- we used to have half a dozen of them, but I don't know where they went... And Yebisu beer!

My kids want to go back to Japan. We've got half a mind to do it.

Kappa no He said...

Sorry it took so long to get back here.

Ello, Oh, yes, the food! And affordable unlike the good luck ornaments.

Mary, you know those super duper gas heated hot water heaters work all the time. Oh, yes, you do!

Gina said...

Japan does have some of the coolest festivals. : D My favorite part of any festival has to be the chocolate covered bananas with sprinkles. : )