Every culture has its own lexicon of symbolic language and imagery. Established groups tend to have a long history of beliefs that are passed down even when the origins are forgotten. Many obscure Japanese symbols for "good luck" are well-known both in Japan and other countries due to the transmission of art and religious beliefs. So the next time you have to say "ganbatte" (good luck) to a close friend, take a moment to consider these rich traditions
Maneki Neko ("Prosperity Cat")
Prosperity cats, beckoning cats, can be seen in many Asian establishments, both commercial and residential. This feline figurine may be posed with one or both paws raised. Typically an elevated left paw is intended to beckon customers while the right welcomes money. Either way the Maneki Neko attracts good luck.
The Hotei, or "Laughing Buddha," is a good luck symbol shared by Chinese and Japanese culture. This statue depicts the God of Contentment and Happiness as a corpulent, happy man carrying his wealth in a sack across his back. Many different symbols of wealth may be carried by Hotei including money, food and children. It is believed that the laughing Buddha brings good luck to those who rub his belly.
The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan, Shichifukujin, are prevalent symbols of good luck used in wall hangings, statues and other artwork. The gods are Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten, Fukurokuju, Hotei and Jurojin. Their worship is closely related to the practice of Buddhism and Taoism by the Chinese and Hindus.
The Daruma doll is a papier-mache statue that has an egg-like appearance and is weighted to prevent tipping over. This item bears the likeness of Bodhidharma, the credited founder of Zen Buddhism. The dolls are bought with blank white eyes; the first pupil is added when a goal is set and the second when it is achieved.
- Crane image by C C M from Fotolia.com