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, luck, and workingmen, as well as the guardian of the health of small children. He is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神, Shichifukujin), and the only one of the seven to originate from Japan.
Origins as Hiruko
In medieval times, Ebisu's origin came to be tied together with that of Hiruko (蛭子) - 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. 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.
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.
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 to be the "Three Gods of Good Fortune".
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.
- B.H. Chamberlain, translator (1882). "Kojiki". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
- Encyclopedia Nipponica (Shogakukan): "えびす"