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.