Seven in Japan

The number seven has as strong an influence in Japanese society as any other country.

Seven in Japan

There are lots of sevens in Japan; the Shichi Fuku Jin (seven Japanese gods of happiness and luck) and the Shichi-nin no Samurai ('Seven Samurai') movie are perhaps the most well-known examples.

the japanese view
Seven celestial bodies. See Rokuyo

Whilst the ancient Japanese day system is loosely based on a six-day cycle (see Rokuyo), the seven planets that were visible to the ancient Japanese astrologers means that seven was, and still is, an auspicious number for Japanese people:

  • The Japanese Star Festival tanabata is on the 7th day of the 7th month when the two mythically lonesome star clusters, Vega and Altair (Orihime and Hikoboshi), are able to meet.

    It's a time for wishing on a star, and the best way to ensure your wish comes true is, or course, to write your wish on a piece of paper and tie it to a bamboo tree. The 7 July is when festivals (matsuri) start in earnest all over Japan, and continue through the muggy summer.

  • On 7 January people eat nanakusagayu (rice porridge with seven herbs) to ward off evil for the coming year, in addition to inviting good luck and longevity
  • Akira Kurosawa wrote the world famous medieval story of Shichi-nin no Samurai ('Seven Samurai').
  • There are seven basic principles of the bushido, the philosophy and ethical code of conduct formulated for Samurai warriors in the 11th - 14th centuries.

    No one can be too sure what these seven ideas were, since they were not written down. They were handed down, sometimes by word of mouth, but usually by veritable deed. Today the seven virtues are generally understood to be:

    • gi
      righteousness, justice, morality
    • yu
      courage, bravery
    • jin
    • rei
      respect, politeness
    • makoto
      honesty, veracity
    • meiyo
    • chuugi
  • A baby's birth is celebrated on the 7th day (oshichiya)
  • A death is mourned for seven days...
  • ...and again after seven weeks
  • In Buddhism, the main religion of Japan, people believe in seven reincarnations
  • Shrines and depictions of the Shichi Fuku Jin are to be found all over the country; from mountain tops to city restaurants
  • There is a saying: nana-korobi, ya-oki, which means fall down seven times, get up eight times. Life has its ups and downs; more ups than downs, so persevere when things are tough and you will surely get through them.
  • The 7 July 2007 (7/7/7) was a Saturday and without doubt, one of the busiest wedding days for many years.
  • Lucky 777 is even etched in some Japanese toilets!

Not only Japan of course, but around the world seven was the number of heavenly powers that man depended upon, and seven itself became a special number.

We might call them planets, stars and moons today, but to the ancient astrologers they were all gods.


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