The seven lucky gods are a mixed lot. Only one is native Japanese: Ebisu, whose black hat you can see above, is
the god of trade, good fortune, fishermen and rice growers. Three others, including Daikokutin, the other face visible
under the sack, are from India. Daikokutin is a god of prosperity, flood control, farming and kitchens, and is often seen
with Ebisu. The sack belongs to a third god, Hotei, who, with two others, originated in China.
The bag is full of whatever it is you need, and will never run out. Hotei is the laughing Buddha one often sees in small
statuettes: rubbing his stomach is said to bring good luck, and he is the god of Happiness.
YOSHITOSHI TSUKIOKA: A Picture of Loss in a Fruitful Year: 1884
The seven lucky gods turn up everywhere in Japan, individually and collectively, as trinkets, wall plaques, statues and,
as here, prints. They are familiar gods, like the lares and penates of Rome, and are usually depicted with
affectionate humanity: there are well-known prints showing them drunk, frightened, seasick and roistering.
Here, Yoshitoshi shows them being attacked by Sickness and Poverty -- note the very empty sack being carried by the
figure behind left. 1884 was not a good year for many Japanese: severe inflation undercut every household, and it
is likely that this is Yoshitoshi's reaction after one of his regular employers cut his salary.