Indian influence on Japanese culture

I love anime.  It has more originality and life than our desi serials that are pompous, boring and often regressive.  That being said, it also gives me a kick that our culture has made such an impact on the Japanese ethos.  Budhism of course, as we love to point out, originated in India.  What very few people except die hard Japanese anime and culture fans know is that Shinto (religion before Budhism) was also influenced by our culture.  Our Gods travelled into Japan, possibly via China ……. and into their mythology too.


The seven gods of fortune in Shinto are

Hotei, Juroujin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Daikokuten, Ebisu

Hotei : Fat, happy, the God of abundance and wealth

Juroujin : God of wisdom

Fukurokuju : God of happiness, wealth and longevity

Bishamonten : God of warriors …. known as Kubera in India

Benzaiten : or Benten- sama Goddess of knowledge, art and beauty, especially music.  We know her as Saraswati

Daikokuten : (Daikoku), God of wealth, commerce and trade. We know him as Shiva.  Along with Ebisu, he has space in all small business establishments, rather like Laxmi and Ganesh in our shops

Ebisu : God of fishermen and commerce

I love Shiva.  I named my elder one Ishaan and younger one Kartikeya. He is all about attitude, power, fertility and he is also the destroyer.   As someone who loves to research such stuff, I really wondered how Shiva underwent a major mood and attitude improvement when he reached Japan.

Thankfully that is just Shiva in a good mood.  Oh and Ishaan also finds a place in the Japanese mythology.

Check this out  and for more dieties that made their way into Japan visit this page


6 thoughts on “Indian influence on Japanese culture

  1. Just one quest… Kubera was not god of “Dhan” ??? 😯 Have to check this one out.

    I know, interesting how they evolve and change character …..

  2. same question as sakhi, Kubera is known more as a wealthy demigod than a god. I think that’s because Kubera was somewhat human in a way, he was proud. He is also known as a keeper of riches from whom Lord Shiva himself borrowed money.

    But Lakshmi is more popular as the goddess of wealth.

    True, but not in Japan ……..

  3. Interesting comparison, but I am keen to understand why you say that Shinto is influenced by “our culture” (which, I presume, refers to Hinduism)? Other than the fact that both were focused on tradition-based ceremonial traditions (very few of which involved paganism), there is no similarity between our way of life and the Japanese way of life.

    Incidentally, you might want to pick up “The Hindus: An Alternative History” by Wendy Doniger, which comes highly recommended and critiqued (and though I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, it promises to be a darn good read about how Hinduism was ‘formalised’ as a ‘systematic set of rituals and traditions’ under the British).

    In my humble opinion, all religion originated as a code of conduct, ethics, way of life etc., hellfire and brimstone came later. Old Testament, Vedas, Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh, Torah etc), Islam all point towards this.

  4. That’s interesting.Its good o know how Hinduism has influenced so many other religions and countries (and no I am not a member of RSS – just taking pride in our history).And since I am this hisory buff, did you know Hindusim is the one religion which didn’t really develop as one -it was more a way of life which gradually developed into a religion after the onslaught of the various invaders into India from medieval period onwards. Hindus were actually the people who lived in Indus just as Delhiites are people who live in Delhi.

    Hinduism is culture, a way of life, not actually religion! Ooops now RSS will come and beat me up

  5. I also had the same impression about Kubera.. as in ‘Kubera ka khajana’.

    I agree about Hindu not being a religion, but a way of life.

    I too! But our Gods were/are multifaceted. One part of their nature got highlighted here, another in some other land ….. I find it quite interesting.

  6. Interesting to know Kubera, Saraswati and Shiva
    got to travel to japan and that too via China
    how the heck did they reach the land of the geisha
    without the all important visa. 🙂

    Visas are for us lowly men and women
    Why should powerful God need them?
    They can fly, teleport or use flu powder
    To travel galaxies, I wish I had such power!

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