pounding rice cakes–
even the god of wealth
In Japan, Daikokuten, the god of great darkness or blackness, or the god of five cereals, is one of the Seven Lucky Gods(Fukujin). Daikokuten evolved from the Buddhist form of the Indian deity Shiva intertwined with the Shinto god Ōkuninushi. The name is the Japanese equivalent of Mahākāla, the Buddhist name for Shiva.
The god enjoys an exalted position as a household deity in Japan. Daikoku’s association with wealth and prosperity precipitated a custom known as fukunusubi, or “theft of fortune”. This custom started with the belief that whoever stole divine figures was assured of good fortune if not caught in the act. In the course of time, stealing divine images became so common a practice in Japan that the Toshi-no-ichi “year-end market” held at Sensō-ji became the main venue of the sale and disposal of such images by the fortune-seekers. Many small stalls were opened where articles including images of Daikoku were sold on the eve of New Year celebrations.
The Japanese also maintain the symbol of Mahakala as a monogram. The traditional pilgrims climbing the holy Mount Ontake wear tenugui (a kind of white scarf) with the seed syllable of Mahakala.
Daikoku is variously considered to be the god of wealth, or of the household, particularly the kitchen. He is recognised by his wide face, smile, and a flat black hat. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet called an Uchide no kozuchi, otherwise known as a magic money mallet, and is seen seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby signifying plentiful food.
Daikoku’s image was featured on the first Japanese bank note, designed by Edoardo Chiossone.