Toka Ebisu - Imamiya Shrine 




Toka Ebisu (Ebessan)

People of Osaka love Toka Ebisu festival (Ebessan). Ebisu is the patron deity of business, sailors and fishermen. The merchants have great faith in Ebisu. He is said to be hard of hearing because too many people came shouting what they wished. So they have to beat the gong at the back of the main shrine building after they offer money (saisen) in the coffer at the front. Ebisu is generally represented as a fat, smiling, bearded fisherman holding a fishing rod and a large sea bream, a king of fish.

The visitors come along the promenade shouting, shobai hanjyo de sasa mottekoi, business is thriving, so bring out the bamboo. They buy fukuzasa, good luck bamboo decorated with models of tai (a sea bream), koban (an old Japanese gold coin) and komedawara (a straw rice bag), from fukumusume, maidens of fortune – fifty pretty young women selected every year for this occasion among 6,000 entries.



































Incidentally, a god who is up against the lucky gods is called binbogami, poverty god or penurious god. Contrary to the lucky gods, the binbogami is skeletally prominent in shabby clothes, with broken uchiwa (paper fan) in hand. If you saw the binbogami in your first dream of the year (hatsuyume), you’d better undergo a prayer for asking him to retreat, or the binbogami would settle in your home comfortably. Or it might be too late.

As a matter of fact the identity of Ebisu is not clearly determined. Many people believe that Ebisu is Hiruko, the first child of Izanagi and Izanami, born without bones, arms and legs due to his mother's transgression during the marriage ritual. Hiruko was cast to the sea in a boat of reeds before his third birthday. He eventually washed ashore in Hokkaido and was cared for by the Ainu people.

The weak child grew legs and the rest of his skeletal structure, and became the god Ebisu. He remains slightly crippled and deaf, but mirthful and auspicious nonetheless. Ebisu's festival is celebrated on the twentieth day of the tenth month, Kannazuki (the month without gods). While the other eight million 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.










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