Japanese Bishamon Ten Scuplture

Japanese Bishamon Ten Scuplture


Bishamon is a beautiful and slender pale-skinned goddess who appears to be in her early twenties with extremely long blonde hair that reaches her feet where it is curly at the end with bangs swept to the right side, purple eyes that has slit-like pupils, dark pink lips and she is tall as her height is 174cm.

Her normal attire, when in combat, consists of a short grey skirt and a grey buttonless jacket, black hat, black bra, and long black boots.


If this stamp isn’t present, it isn’t considered being a Tamahagane razor

As a remark we need to be cautious though:
It is known in the past that less quality products were stamped with
stolen original logo of very popular blacksmiths, in order to sell them easier

These practices are also well known in the Western cutlery
and razor history (Sheffield, Solingen,…)

In this extent, regrettably, we need to acknowledge that there possibly are
fake Tamahagane -, brand -, master -, trademark -,… stamps in circulation…

Of course, on very ancient razors, it is very likely that they didn’t stamp their razors with such a mark, since all razors were made by this steel, just as the ancient Japanese swords also were made of Tamahagane, and didn’t have a “Tamahagane stamp” either.

It was only in the more “modern” times that new kinds of steel saw daylight, which could made it necessary to distinguish real Tamahagane with the according stamp…

In the Edo period, around 1600-1860, Japan was closed for trading,
which implies that steel was produced in their own country. For their
swords and high quality cutlery they used high quality steel and iron.
This would be Tamahagane, and their byproducts. Before this period
of national isolation, Japanese blacksmiths also used Japanese steel,
except for rare cases.

Tamahagane does not necessarily mean it is always excellent quality steel.
During production of Tamahagane steel, this process gives high, as well as
lower quality of steel, so even though there is Tamahagane stamp present,
it does not mean that the product is of excellent quality.

In 1868, the Edo or “Samurai” era came to an end, by then Japan opened their
borders again for trading with other countries. From then they could import
other kinds of steel, for example “Swedish” and “England” steel, which implies
that the Japanese usage of “Swedish”, “England”,… steel happened after 1868.

Tamahagane became more and more expensive, no doubt because by then
it was used far less for swords, because of the “Haitōrei” of 1870 and 1876
which prohibited people from carrying weapons in public

At the same time foreign steel and iron was cheaper,
easier to use, more uniform and less variable.

First, the smiths needed to learn how to forge this foreign steel. It beheld an
entire other process then making Tamahagane. They also wanted to make this
steel as close as possible to the quality of Tamahagane. It would take years,
maybe decades, by the time it became popular to use foreign steel.

Because of this, I thoroughly believe that the usage of stamps as
“Tamahagane”, “Swedish steel”, “England steel”,… began their
entrance only around the end of the 19th century.

Razors that were produced before that time,
were most probably made of Tamahagane.

It is even said that the word “tamahagane” itself was used only after the
Edo era. Tamahagane means “ball-steel”, named because of its usage
for cannonballs during the Meiji era (1868-1912). The word “Tama” also means
round and precious in Japanese, “Hagane” means steel.

⇒ Either way, can we find evidence of how old these Orihi actually are?

The following data gives us proof that Orihi was undoubtedly used in and
before the 19th century, its usage goes back until the 17th century
(or even earlier)

This was originally not always done though, as is clearly seen
on following shown woodblock prints.

Standing Bishamonten (the god of fortune in war and battles) by Unkei, Japan's most famous Buddhist sculptor. Designated as a national treasure, Kamakura period, dated 1186 [1000x2000]

Did the contrapposto pose in sculpture evolve separately in Japan, or did it come there by way of India?

It came through to Japan from China, who got it from India, who got it through Gandhara, who got it through Greek trade and cultural exchange

That is not a contrapposto but Tribhanga

Bishamonten is an adaptation of the deity Vaisravana, so take a guess.

This is amazing! I wish my Art History class had covered Asian Art.

Indeed. I was an art teacher for a span, and this. There was a big Orientalist movement in western art, and Van Gogh loved japanese wood cut prints and it influenced his work with color, Islamic art and asian textiles basically invented the geometric patterns we all think are ubiquitous today, so it should be taught, because it is in most all our art.

Japanese Bishamon Ten Scuplture - History

Deity Names listed by default in Japanese. Click here for other languages. FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER


Japanese term
"Buddha Statue"

INTRO PAGE. Buddhist deities are traditionally classified by art scholars into four main categories, and the same scheme is used here. Nearly all Buddhist deities originated in India, where Buddhism was born around 500 BC. Buddhism in Asia arrived last in Japan, reaching its shores in the early 6th century AD. The Mahayana form in particular spread throughout the Japanese islands. Even today, Japanese statuary primarily reflects Mahayana traditions. Artwork belonging to Theravada and Vajrayana (Esoteric) traditions is less prominent, but it is nonetheless plentiful, especially in the sculpture and mandala of Japan's Esoteric sects.

The highest rank. Buddha is the past participle of Sanskrit buddh (to awaken, to know), and is translated as "one who has awakened to the truth." Buddha is not a personal name. It is an honorific term, like messiah or Christ (the anointed one). Another common Sanskrit term for Buddha is Tathagata. In Japan, Tathagata is rendered as "Nyorai," an honorific title given to those who have attained enlightenment. There are many Buddha in Mahayana traditions. The Historical Buddha (a real person who lived around 500 BC) is one of the most widely recognized in Asia and worldwide. Statues of the various Buddha share common attributes. First, they are generally simple, without jewelry or princely clothes. Second, most Buddha statues are depicted with elongated ears (all-hearing), a bump atop the head (all-knowing), and a boss in the forehead (all-seeing). Third, they are portrayed with characteristic hand gestures (mudra). In contrast, artwork of the Bodhisattva (see below) typically includes jewelry, princely clothes, and elaborate headdresses.

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The penultimate state of enlightenment, just prior to Buddhahood. The Sanskrit term Bodhisattva (bodhi = wisdom, sattva = being) means "those seeking enlightenment." In Japan, Bodhisattva is rendered as "Bosatsu." The Bodhisattva will certainly attain Buddhahood, but for a time, they delay Buddha status, and instead remain on Earth in various guises (manifestations, emanations, reincarnations) to help each of us achieve salvation. All Bodhisattva are motivated by compassion, by the desire to "benefit others" -- indeed, the highest aspiration of the Bodhisattva is to save all sentient beings. The term has other meanings, but the above Mahayana concept is the most widely known. In contrast, followers of Theravada Buddhism revere only the Historical Buddha, and do not pay homage to the numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva venerated by Mahayana followers. While images of the Buddha are generally unadorned, statues of the Bodhisattva typically appear with princely clothes and jewelry -- as many as 13 ornaments, including crowns, earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, and anklets. The Bodhisattva can sometimes be recognized by the objects they carry and the creatures they ride. They share only one of the 32 physical attributes of the Buddha -- the elongated earlobes.

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Myō-ō is the Japanese term for Sanskrit "Vidyaraja," a group of warlike deities known in English as the Mantra Kings, the Wisdom Kings, or Wrathful Forms. Myo-o statues appear ferocious and menacing, with threatening postures and faces designed to subdue evil and frighten unbelievers into accepting Buddhist law. They remove all obstacles to enlightenment and represent the luminescent wisdom of Buddhism. Introduced to Japan in 9th century, the Myo-o were originally Hindu deities that were adopted into Esoteric Buddhism to vanquish blind craving. They serve and protect the various Buddha, especially Dainichi Buddha. In many traditions, they are considered emanations of Dainichi, and represent Dainichi's wrath against evil and ignorance. In Japan, the Myo-o group is worshipped mostly by the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism, but among the individual Myo-o, the one named "Fudo" is widely venerated throughout Japan.

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Hindu deities and non-human entities who converted to Buddhism after hearing the teachings of the Historical Buddha. Like the Myo-o, they stand guard over the various Buddha and protect Buddhist Law. The Sanskrit term DEVA is translated as TEN in Japan, meaning "Celestial Beings." The term BU means "grouping." Thus TENBU literally means "Group of Celestial Beings." The Tenbu grouping includes the Deva and many other divine entities, including creatures like the Dragon. Most originated in ancient Indian myths, but once incorporated into Buddhism, they became protectors of Buddhist Law. The Tenbu appear in great number in the mandala scrolls and paintings of Japan's Esoteric sects.

Takkoku no Iwaya: history carved in stone

On the outskirts of the Iwate town of Hiraizumi stands a striking red and white Buddhist temple, built into a cliff-face: Takkoku no Iwaya. This is a temple steeped in history. It has been a sacred site since 801AD.

Like many early Buddhist sites, it began with a cave, which was then enclosed by a temple building, now known as Bishamondo. Bishamon is an ancient god of war and the temple was built in his honor in 801 after a local war ended and peace was restored to this area.

Since it was built to front the cave, Bishamondo sits high up on a scaffold. Photos are not permitted inside, which looks like many temple interiors until you look up and realize that the back wall is living rock. It is said that a number of antique Buddha statues are stored deep inside the cave. They are only infrequently brought out for public display apparently the next time will be in 2042 (!).

Bishamon is the popular recipient of prayers by those who are struggling, whether it is with attaining wealth achieving business, education or relationship success or overcoming some kind of conflict.

Back outside Bishamondo, stroll to the far end of the temple compound and take a close look at the rock face. At 16.5 meters, about the height of a four-story building, you’ll be able to make out the face and shoulders of a Buddha carved into the living rock. This is Ganmen Daibutsu, also known as the Northern Rock Buddha.

Believed to have been carved around the 14th century in honor of war dead of the 11th century, this was once an image of a seated Buddha, but the lower half of its body crumbled in an earthquake in 1896. Even what remains is regarded as rather delicate it is being carefully maintained.

There is an interesting legend about this Daibutsu, that holds that the Buddha was actually created by a great warlord, Minamoto Yoshiie (1039-1106), who effected the carving by firing arrows at the sandstone cliff. Yoshiie is reputed to have been a fierce and skilled warrior who doubtless had mean archery skills, but this still seems a bit of a tall tale.

Prayers offered here are said to sooth the souls of ten thousand war dead.

Circle back to the pond that stands in front of Bishamondo. A small island on the pond contains a shrine honoring the goddess Benten. Benten is the goddess of music and fine arts. She is usually found on an island, surrounded by water, an element used by her messenger, the dragon or the snake. Apparently when this pond was drained in 1990 for repair work, pot sherds dating to around the 10th century were excavated.

It is said that Benten is a jealous goddess. Don’t pray to her as a couple she will contrive to split you up.

Near the entrance to the temple grounds are the temple’s belfry and a couple of other small temples, including one sporting very old thatch and housing an image of Fudo-myoo, the wrathful messenger god who converts anger to salvation. Prayers are often offered to Fudo-myoo for protection from fire or to cure eye ailments.

While Takkoku no Iwaya is a small temple complex, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it’s definitely worth a visit and is actually quite accessible. Visitors to Hiraizumi can rent bikes and ride out, or take a local cab (about JPY1,000 one way). It is also not far from Genbikei Gorge, and one local hotel that provides shuttle bus service to Hiraizumi can also arrange to drop you at Takkoku no Iwaya. Don’t miss it!

Roleplay Roleplay Roleplay discussion

Aiko-love child
Akemi-bright and beautiful
Amaya- night rain
Aoi- hollyhock
Ayaka- colorful flower

Chiyo- 1,000 generation
Chiyoko- child of 1,000 generations

Haruka- far away
Hiroko- magnanimous child
Hitomi- pupil of the eye, eye
Hotaru- firefly

Kaori- frangrance, aroma, perfume
Kasumi- mist, fog
Kazuko- peace child
Kazumi- harmony and beauty
Keiko- happy child
Kumiko- long time beautiful child

Mai- dance
Mami- true beauty
Mayumi- true bow
Megumi- blessing, kindness
Midori- green
Misaki- beautiful blossom
Miu- beautiful feather
Moe- bud, sprout

Nanami- seven seas
Maomi- the beauty, beautiful
Natsuki- summer, hope

Reika- lovely flower
Rin- cold

Sachiko- child of happiness
Sakura- cherry blossom
Satsuki- 5th month
Sayuri- little lily
Setsuko- child of the festival
Shizuka- quiet, calm

Teiko- upright child
Tomoko- child of wisdom
Tomoni- beautiful friend

Umeko- plum child, plum blossom child

Yoko- sun child
Yoshiko- good child
Youko- sun child
Yukiko- snow child
Yumo- beauty
Yumiko- child of Yumi
Yuuka- excellent aroma
Yuzuki- the moon

Akira- bright prince
Akio- shining man

Daichi- earth, vast land
Daiki- large radiance
Daiskue- big help

Haruto- to soar, to fly
Hiroki- big tree
Hiroshi- generous

Katsumi- self control
Kazuki- 1 tree
Kazuya- harmony, peace
Kenta- healthy and stout
Kiyoshi- pure
Kouhei- calm peace

Makoto- sincerity, truth
Manabu- studous
Masao- righteous man
Masaru- victory, win
Minoru- fruit, seed

Naoki- straight tree
Nobu- prolongm delay

Ren- lotus
Riku- land
Ryo- cool, refreashing

Saburo- third son
Shigeru- to grow thick, to be luxurous
Shin- true, reality
Shinichi- first of Shin
Shiro- fourth son
Shou- soar, fly
Shun- good horse, speed
Sora- blue sky
Susumu- advancement, progress

Tadashi- correct, rightous
Taiki- large radiance
Takasahi- fillial piety
Takeru- warrior, millitary
Takumi- artisan, carpenter
Tsubasa- wing
Tsuyoshi- strong teeth

Yoshio- righteous man
Yutaka- abundant, plantiful rich
Yuudai- grandeur, spelndor

Doncha just love Japanese names?

Aizen-Myoo God of love, worshipped by prostitutes, landlords, singers and musicians.
Aji-Suki-Taka-Hi-Kone God of thunder.
Ama-No-Minaka-Nushi 'Divine Lord of the Middle Heavens' and god of the Pole Star.
Amaterasu Shinto goddess of the sun and the leader of the Shinto pantheon.
Amatsu Mikaboshi God of evil, his name means "August Star of Heaven".
Amatsu-Kami Gods of heaven who live 'above' the earthly plain. Heavenly and eternal.
Ama-Tsu-Mara Shinto god of smiths. He is pictured as a Cyclops.
Ame-No-Mi-Kumari Shinto water goddess.
Ame-No-Wakahiko God sent to rule the earth. Killed by the sky god Takami-Musubi.
Amida God of death, to whom the devout turned at the moment of their death.
Am-No-Tanabata-Hime Goddess of weavers.
Baku A good spirit, known as the 'eater of dreams'.
Benten Goddess of love, the arts, wisdom, poetry, good fortune and water.
Benzai-Ten See Benten.
Bimbogami God of poverty. Rituals are performed to get rid of him.
Binzuru-Sonja God of curing illness and good vision.
Bishamon God of war, justice and protector of the law. He is one of the Shichi Fukujin
Bosatsu Manifestation of the Buddha in the past, present or future. See bodhisattva.
Butsu See Buddha.
Chien-shin A kami which is related to particular geographical area
Chimata-no-kami Go of crossroads, highways and footpaths. He was originally a phallic god
Chup-Kamui Sun goddess of the Ainu. She was originally the moon goddess
Daibosatsu The Great bodhisattva or the Buddha in his last incarnation.
Daikoku God of wealth, the soil and patron of farmers.
Dainichi Buddhist personification of purity and wisdom.
Dosojin God of roads.
Dozoku-shin Ancestral kami of a dozoku, or clan.
Ebisu God of the wealth of the sea, he is the patron god of fishermen and fishing.
Ekibiogami God of plagues and epidemics.
Emma-o Japanese Buddhist god of the underworld. He is the judge of the dead
Fudo God of fire and wisdom, god of Astrology.
Fujin Shinto god of the wind. Seen as a terrifying dark demon in a leopard skin
Fukurokuju Shinto god of wisdom, luck and prosperity.
Funadama The boat-spirit, goddess who protects and helps mariners and fishermen.
Futsu-Nushi-no-Kami God of fire and lightning, a war god and general of Ameratsu.
Gama God of longevity.
Gekka-o God of marriage. He binds the feet of lovers with a red silken cord.
Hachiman God of war and agriculture, divine protector of the Japanese people.
Haniyasu-hiko God of the earth.
Haniyasu-hime Goddess of the earth.
Haya-Ji God of the whirlwind.
Hiruko God of the morning sun. Guards the health of little children.
Hoso-no-Kami God of smallpox.
Hotei God of happiness, laughter and the wisdom of being content.
Ida-Ten Buddhist god of the law and of monasteries. A handsome young man.
Ika-Zuchi-no-Kami Group of even Shinto demons who reside in the Underworld.
Iki-Ryo The spirit of anger and envy which harms.
Inari Both a male and female deity, god/goddess of rice and agriculture.
Isora God of the seashore.
Izanagi Primordial god of the sky and the creator of everything good and right.
Izanami Primordial goddess of the earth and darkness.
Jinushigami Minor deity who watches over a town or plot of land.
Jizo Japanese Buddha of great compassion.
Juichimen Buddhist god of mercy.
Jurojin Shinto god of longevity and a happy old age. One of the Shichi Fukujin
Kagutsuchi Japanese god of fire.
Kamado-gami Gods of the hearth.
Kami-kaze God of wind, storms and viscous cold weather.
Kaminari Goddess of thunder, the Thunder Queen and the Heavenly Noise.
Kanayama-hiko God of metals.
Kanayama-hime Goddess of metals.
Kawa-no-Kami God of rivers. Although rivers had their own god, ruler of all rivers.
Kenro-Ji-Jin God of earth.
Kishi-Bojin Goddess of children and childbirth
Kishijoten Goddess of luck and beauty
Kishimo-jin Buddhist goddess of compassion and protectress of children.
Kojin Ancient tree deity and goddess of the kitchen. She lives in an enoki tree.
Ko-no-Hana The Blossom Princess, she is the goddess of spring
Koshin God of the roads.
Koya-no-Myoin God of the sacred Mount Koya
Kukunochi-no-Kami Shinto god of the trees.
Kuni-Toko-tachi Earth deity who lives in Mt. Fuji.
Kura-Okami God of rain and snow.
Marisha-Ten Queen of heaven, goddess of the light, sun and moon.
Mawaya-no-kami Kami, or deity of the toilet
Miro Japanese name for Maitreya.
Miyazu-Hime Goddess of royalty.
Monju-Bosatsu Japanese Buddhist bosatsu of wisdom and knowledge.
Musubi-no-Kami God of love and marriage. Appears as a handsome young lover.
Nai-no-Kami God of earthquakes.
Naka-Yama-Tsu-Mi God of mountain slopes.
Nikko-Bosatsu Buddhist god of sunshine and good health.
Ninigi-no-mikoto Rice god and ancestral god of the Japanese imperial family.
Nominosukune God of wrestling.
Nyorai Japanese name for all of the Buddha's appearances.
Oanomochi God of the crater of Mt. Fuji.
Ohonamochi A god of the earth.
Oho-Yama The great mountain god.
Okuni-Nushi God of magic and medicine, ruler of the unseen things and the spirit world.
Owatatsumi God of the sea.
Oyamatsumi A god of the mountains
Raiden God of thunder and lightning
Ryo-Wo God of the sea. known as the Dragon King
Sae-no-Kami A group of kami, or deities, who guard the roads of Japan.
Sambo-kojin God of the kitchen. Pictured with three faces and two pairs of hands.
Sarutahiko Ohkami God of crossroads, paths and overcoming obstacles.
Sengen See Ko-no-Hana.
Shaka The silent sage, the wisest and first appearance of Buddha on earth.
Shichi Fujukin Gods of Luck: Benten, Bishamon, Daikoku, Ebisu, Fukurokuju, Hotei
Shinda Ainu fertility god of the island of Hokkaido.
Shine-Tsu-Hiko God of the wind, he fills the space between heaven and earth.
Shoden See Ganesha.
Shoki God of the afterlife and exorcism.
Suijin Deity of the water.
Suitengu Child god of the sea.
Sukuna-Biko Dwarf god of healing, agriculture and hot springs.
Susanowa God of the winds, storms, ocean and snakes in Shinto mythology.
Takami-Musubi Primordial sky god and creator of living things in Shinto belief.
Takemikadzuchi A thunder god.
Taki-Tsu-Hiko God of rain.
Tatsuta-hime Goddess of autumn.
Tenjin God of learning, language and calligraphy. He taught humans to write.
Toyo-Uke-Bime Goddess of earth, food and agriculture.
Toyouke-Omikami - oddess of grain.
Tsuki-Yumi -God of the moon and brother of the sun goddess Ameratsu.
Uba - Spirit of the pine tree. Means 'old woman' or 'wet nurse'.
Uga-Jin - Serpent god of the waters and fertility of the earth.
Uga-no-Mitama -Goddess of agriculture.
Ukemochi - Goddess of fertility and food.
Uzume -Shinto goddess of joy and happiness.
Wakahiru-me - Goddess of the rising sun.
Wata-tsu-mi -God of the sea.
Yabune Japanese house god.
Yama-no-kami -Goddess of the hunt, forest, agriculture and vegetation.
Yamato - The soul or spirit of Japan.
Yuki-Onna - The Snow Queen or goddess of winter.

Hindu Devas take a (silk) road trip to Japan!

This is a historical phenomenon, which entertains and fascinates me to no end. Buddhism had a huge impact on all East Asian cultures, especially on their pantheons of deities. On first glance it might seem odd that a reform movement, which rejected many of the core tenants of Vedic religion would transmit a belief in Vedic deities. This apparent oddity is a misunderstanding of Buddhism’s “atheism,” and a misunderstanding of what a “Deva” actually is. Most forms of Buddhism, while rejecting the concept of all-powerful gods or creator deities, openly accept the existence of powerful supernatural beings. This includes yakshas (nature spirits) rakshasas (demons) gandharvas (celestial musicians) nagas (supernatural snakes) and many other beings, including Devas (deities.) In Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, Devas are created beings that roam around the universe seeking the divine, albeit very powerful ones with much greater spiritual capabilities than humans. Hindu traditions tend to accord Devas much more power and divinity than Buddhism, and worship them as manifestations of The Supreme. In the Buddhist pantheon, the Devas have generally converted to Buddhism and now serve as his protectors, the protectors of his teachings, or as helpers to mortals who are trying to achieve enlightenment.

The reader should be aware that in Japanese mythology and theology the below deities freely interact with native Shinto deities, and deities imported from China. I am isolating the Indian derived deities for the purpose of this bog post, but do not be deluded into thinking that they are unintegrated with the rest of Japanese mythology.

The more popular of these deities are used in non-esoteric Mahayana Buddhism (the bulk of Buddhist sects in Japan.) However, most of these are relatively obscure deities because they are only used in the Shingon school, an esoteric (tantric) school of Buddhism. As such, the bulk of these Devas achieved full development in Japan around the late 700s or early 800s, as a result of the rise in popularity (especially amongst the political elite) of esoteric and Shingon Buddhism.

Last note: There are a lot of different names involved here, because (among other reasons) Sanskrit and Japanese don’t transliterate very well. For deities in which two names are listed, the first is Sanskrit, and the second is Japanese. In cases where, for some reason, I’ve listed many names, I will specify with an (S) or a (J) which language it is from.

(S) Ganesha/ (S) Vinayaka / (J) Binayaka / (J) Shoten/ (J) Kangiten: Ganesha was one of the first Indian deities to transit to Japan, and as in India, is one of the most popular in both esoteric and non-esoteric sects. Perhaps this is because his association with worldly prosperity has been retained, or perhaps amplified into a general association with pleasure. Thus, actors, geishas, gamblers, restaurant proprietors, etc offer him worship. Shoten has retained the association for removing obstacles, although his ancient association with creating obstacles which has long since been expunged from the Hindu tradition is still mildly active in Japan for reasons which will become clear later.

Dancing Ganesha from North Bengal, 11th Century. Image From Vikram Kharvi’s blog “My Lord Ganesha”

Contemporary Kankiten Statue from Fukuoka Japan. Image from this Japanese Website

He is often depicted in (implicitly erotic) embrace with another elephant headed figure. In that iconography, his name is “Kangiten” or “Binayaka.” This is an allusion to a Japanese myth about Kangiten’s “evil” origins, wherein his mother, Uma births 1,500 evil children onto her left (collectively called Binayakas), the first of which was Binayaka. On her right side she births 1,500 good children the first of which was Avalokiteśvara/Kannon (the Bodhisatva of compassion) incarnated as Idaten (Skanda or Murugan in India.) In order to win Binayaka over to goodness, Idaten reincarnates as a female binayaka and becomes Kangiten’s wife. The bliss generated by their union turns Kangiten good. According to this myth therefore, the embracing Kangiten figures actually represent Kangiten in sexual union with his brother reincarnated as his wife/sister. There are other myths, which seek to explain this iconography, but all of them involve some sort of gender reversal, usually by means of reincarnation.[1] There is a huge corpus of Japanese Ganesha myths, which do not exist at all in India, but the initial one just mentioned seems to almost reference Ganesha’s actual historical development in India. Ganesha probably evolved from the set of demons called Vinayakas/Binayakas who were known for erecting obstacles and creating divisions between allies. However, they were easily appeased. So easily appeased in fact that over time they evolved into positive forces, and merged into one deity—Ganesha.[2]

Embracing Kangiten. Image from onmarkproductions.com

However, the aforementioned Japanese myths all seem to be trying to explain the dual figured Kangiten iconography by posing, as it’s mythological basis. The real basis lies elsewhere, probably in the translations of Amoghavajra, a half Indian half Sogdian monk living in China in the early 700s. He was a founder of the “Chen-Yen” school of esoteric Buddhism (a precursor to the Shingon school,) and his translations of various tantric texts entail repeated references to the “dual-bodied Vinayaka” which is an obstacle removing and prosperity inducing deity described as looking exactly like modern embracing Kangiten figures, including the erotic embrace. There was also a pre-Buddhist Japanese deity named N-io, which took the form of a male and female in embrace, which could have contributed, or facilitated the popularity of the embracing Kangiten figures.[3]

(S) Shiva/ (S) Mahakala/ (J) Daikoku-ten: Daikoku-ten is the most popular manifestation of Shiva (also known as Mahakala), although he is also the most different from the Indian version. His traditional trishula style trident has been replaced by a magic, prosperity-producing mallet. He is one of the Seven Lucky Gods, and as such carries a sack of treasure on his shoulder symbolizing wealth, wisdom, and patience. An association with wealth has wholly supplanted his association with destruction. Daikoku-ten’s jovial appearance is a far cry from Rudra, The Howler who struck terror into the hearts of Vedic era Indians. However, According to the Chinese pilgrim I-Tsing, this shift to a softer less frightening protective deity was already well underway in Western India by the 7th century (around the time when Buddhism began gaining large numbers of Japanese adherents).[4] Daikoku-ten images are also commonly found in kitchens, a tradition possibly imported from China or India where Mahakala images were put in monastery kitchens. [5]

However, Daikoku-ten can also be manifested in 6 different forms, one of them being his consort, Kali, and another one is his son. For more details click here.

Contemporary Indian Shiva miniature. Image from Art of Legend India

Daikokuten image published in 1902. Image from Wikipedia

Shiva/Daijizaiten: This is the form of Shiva, which more resembles the Indian version. Daijizaiten is a protective deity, and takes on Shiva’s classical role as defender of the northeast. Some depictions retain the dark skin, while others do not but a fierce aspect is usually present. In Medieval times, Japan was considered the home of Shiva, and he was thought to be its cosmic ruler. He was also thought to be the creator of the Chinese writing system. [6]

Shiva can also be manifested as a part of Sanmen Daikoku, an amalgam deity consisting of Shiva (now in Daikoku form once again), Kubera, and Saraswati.

11th century Chola Dynasty (Tamil) Shiva preforming the Natraja dance (the dance which destroys the universe.) Image from Wikipedia

Daijizaiten, Edo Era (1603 to 1868) from Gokokuji Temple (Tokyo.) Image from Gokokuji Temple website via onmarkproductions.com

Shiva, Kubera, and Saraswati/Sanmen Daikoku: This is a three-headed deity which was invented relatively late– the late 14th century. A fierce aspect is sometimes depicted, but it doesn’t seem integral to the deity. See the following two entries for information on the Japanese forms of Kubera and Saraswati. [7]

The left face is Kubera/Bishamon, the center face is Shiva/Daikoku, and the right face is Saraswati/Benzaiten. Image from the blog “Daruma Museum”

Saraswati/Benzaiten: Another one of the Seven Lucky Gods. Her stringed instrument has switched nationalities, from an Indian veena to a Japanese biwa. She has retained her association with waters, music, language and knowledge. The emphasis on physical beauty seems to have heightened in the Japanese version. Overall she seems to have been transmitted to Japan without much major change. She has become the bodhisattva of entertainers, similar to how musicians worship Saraswati in India.[8] Shinto worshippers have also adopted her as a kami. [9]

Painting of Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma (1884-1906.) Image from Wikimedia Commons

Painting of Benzaiten by Haritsu Ogawa (1663-1747.) Image from the blog Samuel Snoek-Brown

Kubera/Bishamon: In Japan Kubera does double duty as another one of the Seven Lucky Gods, and also as the Heavenly King of the North. Heavenly Kings are guardians of the cardinal directions, and Kubera is the only Hindu Deva to become one, the rest being novel Buddhist creations. In stark contrast to Kubera’s relatively mild portrayal in India and other parts of the Buddhist world, Bishamon is an enforcer of justice and a god of war. His prominence in Japan far outstrips his prominence in India. Statues of him are often used as a temple guardians, and his depictions are accordingly fearsome. It almost seems like Kubera and Shiva’s Daikoku-ten form switched roles when exported to Japan. Bishamon even holds a trident, reminiscent of Shiva. [10] [11]

Bishamon (Tamonten), 9th century, Toji Temple (Kyoto.) Image from onmarkproductions.com

(S) Indra/ (S) Shakra / (J) Taishakuten: He not changed much from the Indian Buddhist version (which has already expunged the Hindu association with warfare.) Like Indra and Shakra, Taishakuten is the lord of storms, commands the Four Heavenly Kings, and lives atop Mt. Meru. He has even retained his elephant mount, which I imagine must have been difficult for Japanese sculptors who had never seen a photograph of an elephant. As the king of weather, he is also the commander of the Four Heavenly Kings. He also contributed to the evolution of the thunder god Raijin which will be addressed later.[12] Japanese folk tales have cited Taishakuten and his wife (Shachi) as an example of the ideal romantic couple, much like Ram and Sita are in India. [13]

Indra, made in 1820-1825 in Tiruchchirappalli (Tamil Nadu.) Image from Wikimedia Commons

Taishakuten. Image from Ohio State University’s Huntington Archive

Yama/Enma: Yama doesn’t seem to have undergone major changes from the standard Buddhist version to his Japanese incarnation. He is still the “God of Death,” king of the underworld, and judge of the dead, and consequently has a fearsome aspect to represent death and justice. The only major difference is that he sometimes manifests as 10 different judges, one for each layer of the underworld. His Indian style crown is gone, replaced by a Japanese judge’s cap (sometimes with the word for “King” on it) and gown.[14]

Kalighat (Bengali) painting from the late 19th century. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Enma as depicted in a wallscroll from the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573 to 1603) found in Nara, Japan. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Garuda/Karura: I hesitate to include this in my list, because although Garuda is a singular personal Deva in Hinduism, in Buddhism Garudas are a race of anthropomorphic bird creatures. The Buddhist version has been transmitted to Japan almost completely intact. The association with fire seems to have been amplified to the point where the Karuras are capable of breathing fire.[15] A notable difference between the two versions is that in Japan Karuras are sometimes depicted playing the flute. [16]

Garuda serving as Vishnu’s mount. Created between 1723 and 1727. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Karura, from Sanjūsangendō (a temple in Kyoto)
Kamakura Era (1185–1333.) Image from onmarkproductions.com

Brahma/Bonten: Bonten remains relatively unchanged from Buddhist Brahma. However, Buddhism in its rejection of a divine creator strips the Hindu Brahma of his universe-creating abilities and transforms him to the “king of the Realm of Forms.” It is said that Brahma descended from Heaven to teach the Buddha’s teachings to humans and bring them to enlightenment.[17] In medieval Japan, Brahma was thought to rule over India (as Vishnu ruled China and Shiva ruled Japan) and created it’s brahma writing system. Joto’s “Commentary on the Treatise on the Lotus Sutra” contains an interesting variation of the Hindu myth of the creation of the Vedas. In both versions the four faces of Brahma expound the four Vedas, but in Joto’s version there is a fifth face atop Bahma’s head which preaches a fifth Veda. The fifth however is the most profound and difficult to understand, and it is not circulating in our world.[18]

Brahma. Punjabi depiction from about 1700. Image from Wikipedia

Bonten. Image from Ohio State University’s Huntington Archive

Prithvi/Jiten: Guardian of the downward direction. Earth goddess. Consort of Brahma/Bonten. Unchanged.

Contemporary Prithvi statue from Jakarta Indonesia. Prithvi worship fell out of fashion quickly after the Vedic period, as other mother goddesses like Lakshmi and Saraswati gained popularity. As a result, Indian Prithvi images are rare. However, in Indonesia Prithvi was adopted as “Ibu Pertiwi” and is the national personification of Indonesia, much like Bharat Mata is in India. Image from Wikipedia

Jiten image from 1127 housed at the Kyoto National Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Prthivi/Jizo: This is a highly altered form of Prithvi. Bodhisattva Jizo is extremely popular all over the Buddhist world, including Japan. The “mother of all creatures” role she plays in the Vedic texts has been amplified into an all encompassing compassion for all beings. According to the mythology, she is currently capable of enlightenment but is waiting to leave the world until all living beings are saved. Her similarity to Avalokiteshvara/Kannon sometimes causes the two to be conflated in Japan. Prthivi worship fell out of fashion relatively quickly in India, so most of Jizo’s evolution took place in China. For more information click here.

Jizō at Chōsenji Temple (near Beppu City, Ōita Prefecture.) Image from onmarkproductions.com

Varuna/Suiten: A water deity, much like his Indian counterpart though his mount has been switched from a makara to a tortoise (not pictured.) [19] However, in one of his versions he seems to have switched into a female, and taken on characteristics very similar to Saraswati/Benzaiten. Suiten never gained much popularity in Japan, probably because it already had Suijin, a much better established Shinto water deity. [20]

Varuna sitting atop a Makara. Rajastani depiction from 1675-1700. Image from Wikipedia

Suiten. Created in 1127. Housed in Kyoto National Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Varuna and Indra/Raijin: Varuna and Indra, along with the Chinese deity Fengshe influenced the development of Raijin, the Japanese God of Thunder. He is depicted with circle of drums swirling around his upper body, which he beats to cause thunder. In Chinese myth him and his ally, Futen were demons who opposed Buddha, but were subjugated by him. Raijin is sometimes credited by the Japanese for causing the powerful storms, which destroyed the invading Mongolian fleet in 1274. [21] [22]

Statue of Raijin from the mid 13th century located in Sanjūsangen-dō (a temple,) in Kyoto, Japan. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Vayu/Futen: Guardian of the northwest. Vedic wind deity blended with the Taoist thunder deity Leigong, the and native Shinto deitiy Fujin. Usually depicted alongside Raijin. [23] His “bag of wind” belies his Shinto roots. [24]

Contemporary Madhubani (Bihari folk art) style depiction of Vayu by the artists Vidya Devi and Dhirendra Jha. Image from Exotic India

Statue of Fūjin in Sanjūsangen-dō (a temple) in Kyoto, Japan. From the mid 13th century. Image from Wikimedia Commons

A screen of Raijin (left) and Futen (right) together. By Tawaraya Sotatsu (1600-1640.) Located at Kennin-ji, Kyoto. Image from Gallery Sakura

Skanda/Idaten: Skanda is the Sanskrit name, but in India he is most commonly known as by his Tamil name, Murugan. In both locations he is the son of Shiva/Daijzaiten, and the brother of Ganesha/Kankiten. In an exclusively Japanese myth, Idaten becomes reincarnated as his brother’s wife in order to turn him away from evil. He is therefore often considered to be the female component in the double-Kangiten image. In that case, he is depicted with an elephant head to match Ganesha/Kankiten. [25] Normally depicted balancing a sword and in soldiers garb, he is a protector of Buddha’s teachings. In the Hindu version as well, he is a protective deity presiding over warfare. Like one of his father’s manifestastations (Daikoku-ten) he also serves as a kitchen deity.[26]

Skanda or Karktikeya or Murugan by Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906.) Image from Wikipedia

Idaten statue in Zenpou temple. Image from Flickr

An image of Shoten in embrace with his brother Idaten (reincarnated as a female.) Image from Wikimedia Commons

Vishnu/Bichuten: In medieval times, Bichuten was thought to be the divine ruler of China, and the creator of the “Western barbarian script”, in other words the Kharoshthi script used to write Gandhari, the Prakrit dialect spoken in modern northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. [27]The Kharoshthi script had importance to the Japanese as a language in which many Buddhist texts were written, and translated from. Though Bichuten exists in the Buddhist sutras, images of him are rare or nonexistent. [28]

Vishnu/Ungyo: Ungyo is the closed mouthed “Benevolent King” guardian figure who stands at Japanese temple gates. He stands opposite his open mouthed associate, Vairocana/Agyo (who is a Buddha, not a Deva, and therefore does not appear on this list.) Unlike the calm aspect, which Vishnu normally holds, Ungyo maintains the appearance of a fierce warrior.[29]

Mid 20th century Vishnu image from an edition of the Mahabharata. Image from Wikipedia

Vairocana /Agno on the left, Vishnu/Ungyo on the right. Image from Studyblue

Lakshmi/Kichijoten: A goddess of fertility, luck, and beauty in both traditions, though she seems much more strongly associated with wealth in the Hindu tradition. Since the 16th century however, Saraswati/Benzaiten has largely supplanted her. In Hindu tradition she is the consort of Vishnu, but in Buddhist tradition her consort is Kubera/Bushamonten.[30]

Contemporary printed graphic image of Lakshmi. Image from Dolls of India

Kichijjōten, 1078 AD, Treasure of Hōryūji Temple (Nara). Image from onmarkproductions.com

(S) Durga/ (S) Chandi/ (J) Juntei Kannon: The Vedic Goddess Durga has a form called Chandi, which is an adaptation of a pre-Vedic goddess of Bengal. This is the form, which was exported to Japan. There, she became one of the six manifestations of Avalokiteshvara/Kannon (the Bodhisattva of compassion) and is associated with human realm of reincarnation. Chandi has undergone other major changes, including usually being depicted as a male, and losing the fierce, warlike aspect she assumed in her Hindu form.[31] [32]

Contemporary Chandi image (center) Chaudhury Bazar, Orissa. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Juntei Kannon, in Daihouon-ji Temple, Kyoto. Image from Flickr

Surya/Nitten: The sun god, or ruler of the sun in Hinduism and Buddhism. Usually depicted alongside Chandra/Gatten, the analogous moon deity.[33]

Contemporary printed graphic of Surya. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Nitten, 15th-16th Century, Jinmuji Temple (Tendai Sect) Zushi City, Japan. Image from onmarkproductions.com

Chandra/Gatten: The moon god, or ruler of the moon in Hinduism and Buddhism. Usually depicted alongside Surya/Nitten, the analogous sun deity.[34] The gender has switched, so that he is usually depicted as female, and is referred to as “Lady Ruler of the Moon” in the Tendai tradition. [35]

Contemporary Chandra statue, from Surendrapuri temple in Andhra Pradesh. Image from Wikipedia

Gatten, 5th-16th Century, Jinmuji Temple (Tendai Sect) in Zushi City. Image from onmarkproductions.com

Vishvakarma/Bishukatsuma: in Hinduism, he is the divine architect of the universe, and the patron deity of architects, builders and craftsmen. However, possibly because Buddhism rejects creator deities, Bishukatsuma’s tendencies towards architecture and large-scale engineering have been altered towards sculpture, carpentry, and arts. [36] [37] [38]

Vishvakarma. Contemporary printed graphic. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Bishukatsuma statue. Image from the Kyoto National Museum

Agni/Katen: Fire deity who was extremely important in Vedic religion, as messages and offerings to the Gods were carried up through the sacrificial fire. He is important to the Shingon sect because a type of Vedic fire ceremony (called Havan or Homa) has been transmitted and modified by them (into the Goma ceremony). Through Shingon Buddhism Agni veneration also was adopted by the small, mystical sect called Shugendo, though their Goma ceremonies were bonfire sized. [39] [40]

Agni and his consort, Svaha. Circa 1800. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Katen, 1227, located at the Kyoto National Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Hariti/Kishimojin: While not strictly a Hindu Deva, she was an Iranic Daeva, so I’m including her on this list. In my previous post I detailed a Buddhist myth in which she is a child eating yaksha who turned into a benevolent child guarding entity after meeting the Buddha. That still basically applies. Her depictions follow much closer to a goddess or a bodhisattva than a yaksha though. She symbolizes fertility, easy childbirth, and the protection of children. She is usually depicted with only one child, whereas in Indian iconography she is often crawling with children.[41]

Hariti, 2-3rd century, from Gandhara. located in British Museum. Image from Wikipedia

Kariteimo, Early 13th Century,Treasure of Onjōji Temple in Shiga Prefecture. Image from onmarkproductions.com

Hayagriva/Ba-to Kannon: Hayagriva, the horse headed incarnation of Vishnu exists in the Japanese Shingon school, but not as his own figure. He is one of the six manifestations of Avalokiteshvara/Kannon (the Bodhisattva of infinite compassion) and is associated with the animal realm of reincarnation. In Japanese depictions rather than having an actual horse’s head, he either wears a horse-head crown atop his normal human head, or rides a horse. The Buddhist version of Hayagriva is much more fierce than the Hindu version. in Japan he is called a “funnu” or angry deity known for destroying demons. The Hindu variant is purely a God of wisdom and knowledge. [42] Probably because of a pre-existing Shinto horse cult which was associated with the protection of roadways, Ba-to Kannon is also a road-protecting deity. Livestock owners also pray to him for the protection of horses and cattle. [43]

Mid 20th century Hayagriva image from an edition of the Mahabharata. Image from Wikipedia

Ba-to Kannon, Kamakura, 1449-1471. Image from onmarkproductions.com

Acalanatha/Fudo: He is the Center deity of the Five Buddhas of Wisdom (another system of cardinal direction guardians.) He is very prominent in Shingon buddhism and is known for his incredibly fierce appearance and associations. His sword is for cutting through ignorance, and subduing non-believers and demons (often surrogates for desires or temptations in Buddhism.) His terrifying appearance is meant to scare people into accepting the Buddha’s teachings, and relatedly, he is a figure associated with religious instruction. [44] He also carries a rope, and has a third eye. In Shingon Buddhism he presides over the post-funeral memorial service. [45]

Acalanatha (Acala) Eastern India, 11th– 12th century. Image from Cast for Eternity at asianart.com

Fudo statue at Mt. Foya (Okunoin, Koya, Japan) Image from Wikipedia.

I’ve made this list as extensive as possible, but there are plenty of other Devas who are mentioned in the Buddhist sutras who probably have depictions. I know for a fact that Uma, and Indrani have Japanese counterparts. There are several other versions of Vishnu, which I couldn’t cover. I know of one depiction of Krishna, though I doubt he was worshipped. There are also figures like Marichi and Yamantaka, which I left out for reasons of their own. I also know that the rest of the Heavenly Kings, Bodhisattvas, Vidyadharas, yakshas, rakshasas, kumbhandas, nagas, makaras, ghandharvas and apsaras were also adopted into Japanese culture and mythology, but if I detailed all of them then this post would become even more completely unwieldy than it already is. If you really must investigate further, this website was incredibly useful to me: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/buddhism.shtml Seriously I owe a major debt of gratitude to that website for all the information and images they provided me. And by they I mean Mark Schumacher and whatever associates he may have I seriously love those guys.

I only cited these slides in an image credit, but if you are interested in this stuff, its a good resource: http://huntingtonarchive.osu.edu/resources/lectures/670/lect22.pdf

[1] Krishan, Y. Gaṇeśa: Unrevelling an Enigma. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999. Pages 164-165. Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/agktw2u

[2] Brown, Robert L. Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God. Albany: State University of New York, 1991. Pages 69-79. Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/ae5b9ec

[4] Suzuki, Teitaro. The Seven Gods of Bliss. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, Open Court vol. xx1, published 1907. Converted to HTML in 2002 by Christopher M. Weimer: http://www.sacred-texts.com/journals/oc/ts-sgb.htm

[6] Teeuwen, Mark. Rambelli, Fabio. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a combinatory paradigm. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Heading title: “The Three Brothers: Creators of Different Writing Systems.” Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/ac65a4s

[8] Ashkenazi, Michael. Handbook of Japanese Mythology. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003. Page 126. Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/bkmzmlp

[11] Illes, Judika. The Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods, and Goddesses. New York: HarperOne, 2009. Page 281. Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/az2ufwx

[13] Chaudhuri, Saroj Kumar. Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Japan. New Delhi: Vedams E (P), 2003. Page 93. Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/ajebmm9

[16] Thakur, Upendra. India and Japan, a Study in Interaction during 5th Cent.-14th Cent. A.D. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1992. Page 40. Google Book: http://tinyurl.com/aqzloy7

[17] Ibid 6, Heading title: “The Third Link: From Tenjin to Mahevra)

Southeast Asia

This bronze icon of the Hindu god Shiva comes from Vietnam or Cambodia. Shiva is identifiable by his snake armband and the presence of a third eye in the middle of his forehead. His long hair is tied up in a topknot like that of an ascetic, and he wears the clothing and adornments of a mature, distinguished royal personage. Around his neck and shoulders is a multistrand necklace in his ears are massive, pendant earrings and around his hips is a patterned sampot with a long ornamental panel falling in a point over his thigh. This sculpture may have functioned both as a religious icon and as a memorial dedicated by a king. The distinctive personalized facial features of this icon reinforce the idea that this is a portrait as well as an image of a deity—possibly a deified royal guru figure who identified himself with Shiva.

Aftermath of the Bombing

At noon on August 15, 1945 (Japanese time), Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s surrender in a radio broadcast. The news spread quickly, and “Victory in Japan” or “V-J Day” celebrations broke out across the United States and other Allied nations. The formal surrender agreement was signed on September 2, aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.

Because of the extent of the devastation and chaos—including the fact that much of the two cities&apos infrastructure was wiped out𠅎xact death tolls from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain unknown. However, it&aposs estimated roughly 70,000 to 135,000 people died in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 people died in Nagasaki, both from acute exposure to the blasts and from long-term side effects of radiation. 

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