Japanese Buddhism

Japanese Buddhism when it came to Japan about the sixth century was readily accepted and allowed to establish itself side by side with Shinto beliefs. A good many of its tenets and symbols having been adopted and being still in use at the present time, Buddhist Talismans similar to those worn in India and China are prevalent, the god Fulgen being regarded as an incarnation of Buddha. The Shintos believe their country was the birthplace of the Sun Goddess, whose descendants they are, being also predestined to rule the country for ever and ever; thus it is that ancestor-worship forms the basis of Shinto beliefs. The country, it is believed, was in the first place begotten by two gods, whose actions and impulses it is considered impossible for man with his limited intelligence to judge.

There are numerous deities of Heaven and Earth, typifying human beings of high degree, all brave men who are dead, or impressive formations of Nature, such as the Sea, Mountains, Trees; also, by reason of something strange, fearful, or wonderful in their nature, certain animals, the Tiger, the Wolf, and Fox; and all forces that manifest in the elements, such as Thunder, the Echo, Fire; in fact all things strange and wonderful are deified under the name Kami, and have shrines dedicated to their worship or are used in various forms as Talismans.

The Japanese believe that errors are the result of human weaknesses, and can be expiated, or forgiven, and that the steadfast following of the path of truth will win the approval of the gods, and bring them finally to eternal life and the companionship of their beloved dead. The female element is considered equal with the male, and occupies a very high rank in the Shinto system in contrast to China, where women have no status.

Fu-Ku-Ro-Ku-Jiu

Fu-Ku-Ro-Ku-Jiu, the god of Fortune and Wisdom, Fu-ku, Luck and Happiness, Ro-ku, Wealth and Prosperity, Jiu, Longevity, represented by a long-headed man with a staff, attended by a Crane (sometimes he has the Fan of Power in one hand and a scroll in the other), and is valued as a Talisman for the qualities he represents; Ebisu, the god of Plenty, the giver of daily food; and the household god Daikoku, the god of Love, Benzaiben, the god of Grace and Beauty, Bishamon, the god of Glory, with the Spear of Power in his right hand, and in his left the Pagoda for Inspiration and Hope; Benton, who gives fruitfulness to women, and Hotei, the god of Contentment and Good Fortune are all Talismans for the virtues which they express.

Hotei

Hotei (Illustration No. 42, Plate III), the children's god, bringing happiness and good fortune, is found in every household; he is represented seated on his bag, which is well-filled with the good things he dispenses, his corpulent figure denoting his high attainment and personal importance.

The Eagle

The Eagle, because of his courage, fearlessness, tenacity, and aggressiveness, is worn as a Talisman for good fortune, and Captain Brinkley, in his book Japan and China, says:

"In November tens of thousands flock to the Eagle shrine to purchase harbingers of luck in the shape of big rakes, parent potatoes, and Millet dumplings. The Rake, as part of the paraphernalia of the pursuer of gain, explains itself; the parent potato denotes humble ambition, buried in the ground and grown in oblivion is at any rate the parent of a family. Millet dumplings are associated with the orthodox group of lucky articles by a play upon words - 'to clutch Millet with wet hands' is a popular metaphor for greed; Mochi, which signifies a dumpling, therefore, signifies grasping largely and holding firmly".