January 6, 2008. The day dawned bright & clean in old Edo (Tokyo) - well, I assume the dawn was bright & clear because that's how it was when I awoke at 07:30 to begin preparations for our pilgrimage to the six different shrines & temples we need to visit today to gather our collection of the 7 lucky gods.
Before we got to the next stop we spotted what must be the original JC Penney - can't be anything but, right(!), given the locale & the age of some of these temples? Not sure what they sell since they were closed (it was Sunday), but gotta wonder about that name!
Next stop, Shirahige (White Whiskers) Jinja (Shrine), where we bought (yep, they actually do NOT give these little statues away) Jurojin, the deity of longevity. Shirhige is a deity of Korean origin. However, he is not one of the 7 gods of good fortune, but like Jurojin he sports a long white beard so the two are easily associated with each other. Jurojin was originally a Chinese god of longevity and he also carries a long staff and is dressed in the clothes of a scholar.
From there we headed for Hyakkaen (of Mr. Sawara Kiku fame, noted above). The garden area covers about 3 acres and the plants and flowers of the garden were all selected based on association with Chinese literature. This is because of the Chinese centered interests during the Edo period, whichi was the era when this garden was completed. There is a small shrine in the garden dedicated to Fukurokuju, the Chinese deity of Good Luck, Fortune and Long Life.
On to Chomeiji, the temple of long life and the home of Benten, the only female of the 7 lucky gods. Benten is the deity of music and fine arts. She is not of Chinese origin, but harks back to an Indian water sprite. Chomeiji also has a link with water and there is a sacred spring on the grounds. It is purported that the water from this spring cured Iemitsu, who was the third Tokugawa Shogun (war lord) of a stomach ailment. Yep, we drank the water, so the old tummies should be in great shape for this new year of the rat (according to the Chinese Zodiac).
Now we have our 7 gods and we even have the boat, their treasure craft, that they sail into the harbor every New Year's eve.