I don’t know about you, but just the mention of leeches gives me the creeps. It is something visceral – with me at least. That said, a person can’t spend any time studying the nature of the god Ebisu without talking about leeches. However, if I started off with those disgusting bloodsuckers then I might lose you forever. So, instead, let’s look at a few other representations of this particular lucky god before we deal the the darker elements. Some of the images are so lighthearted it will be hard to see Ebisu as anything other than benign at the least. A good place to begin is with one of my favorite depictions of him, a print by Kunisada, ca. 1810, at the very beginning of his very long and productive career. It even gives us a sense of how great this artist was going to be.
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
Leaving aside his birth for the moment, let’s look at one version of his childhood –
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College – Kitao Shigemasa, ca. 1770s-80s
Kumon Institute of Education – Kikugawa Eizan
What does Humphey Bogart have to do with Ebisu? Just wait… I’ll tell you later.
***Please note that today is August 30, 2015 and I have just started this post. There will be much more to come in both pictures and words in the next few weeks. So, please come back often to see what has been added.