KYO: Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine & Toka Ebisu

Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine & Toka Ebisu

Have you ever heard of “Shichifukujin”? It literally means “Seven Fortune Gods”. “Ebisu” is one of the seven fortune gods, and Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine enshrines the god of Ebisu. Ebisu is called Hirukono-Mikoto who is said to be the first child of Izanagi & Izanami. Or, he is called Sukuna-Hikonano Kami. According to a legend, he could not stand up nor let out his voice till 3 years old so that he was put on a boat and channeled off to the ocean. From that anecdotage, Ebisu has been regarded as the god of ocean and fishing. (The god of Ebisu carries a rod and red sea bream. )Many years later, since commerce had been developed, Ebisu has been regarded also as the god of prosperous business.

Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine is regarded as one of the 3 greatest Ebisu Jinja Shrines in Japan. The other two are Imamiya Ebisu Jinja Shrine in Osaka, and Nishinomiya Ebisu Jinja Shrine in Hyogo. Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine was originally on a premise of Kenninji Temple established in 1202 by Eisai, the Buddhist monk who started the Rinzai Zen Sect in Japan. Also, he brought the culture of drinking tea to Japan. Eisai had stayed in China, and on his way back to Japan, a storm hit his ship, and the ship was about to sink off. At that time, Eisai saw the god of Ebisu, and enshrined Ebisu on his ship. Finally, Eisai could get out of trouble. After he came back to Japan, he constructed a shrine in Kenninji temple to appreciate Ebisu. Later on, in 1467, Kenninji temple was burned down due to the battle of Onin-no-ran, and after that, the shrine was transferred to the place today.

I have been to Toka Ebisu, which is the event when all people who wish for business prosperities come to this shrine. (Of course, we can visit there at any time, but from 8th to 12th of January, the shrine conducts ceremonies to appreciate Ebisu.) Each side of the approach is lined with food stalls, the same as other religious events. Many people carry their bamboo branches, which were blessed by the god. To reach the entrance gate, I had to wait around 1 hour, but I could not nearly give up because this is the important event for me, for the business prosperity especially this year! After I entered the gate, I could feel the excitements of the people. Usually, I love to visit quiet atmosphere of shrines, but here, it was completely different. The song of Ebisu was played, the Kagura dance (a dance which is dedicated to the god) by a shrine maiden was performed, and everybody knocked the building where Ebisu was enshrined because Ebisu said to be hearing difficulty. I prayed for Ebisu, received a bamboo branch (blessed by a Shinto maiden), and bought some ornaments to hang from the branch. Honestly, I could not help asking a flourishing business this time. (When I visit shrines, I always “appreciate” the god..)

This time, I visited there in the midst of the event, but next time, I would like to visit the normal aspect of this shrine. However, for the people visiting in Kyoto in January, it would be a fun event to visit, and I believe this event relates to many people’s wishes.