While visiting the Shinsekai district from Osaka, you will see everywhere statues of a funny looking character with a mischievous smile - the god Billiken. Many people are taking pictures with Billiken while rubbing the soles of his feet, so he seems to be the typical Japanese god - the rubbing looks similar to other customs related to the Seven Lucky Gods (e.g. people are rubbing Daikokuten for good luck).
However, Biliken is a god imported from… America! He was invented at the beginning of the 20th century by an art teacher, Florence Pretz from St. Louis, who saw him… in a dream. For a while, Billiken enjoyed a lot of popularity in America as a charm doll, but was forgotten after a few years.
Exactly 100 years ago, in 1912, Billiken arrived in Japan, where he was enshrined in the Luna Park from the Osaka’s Shinsekai district as “The God of Things As They Ought to Be“. In 1923, the park was closed and the Biliken statue disappeared, but in 1979 Billiken returned to popularity and a statue was enshrined in the rebuilt Tsūtenkaku Tower. Today, Billiken merchandise (sweets, small statues and plush dolls) can be found almost everywhere in Osaka and the queue of people waiting to see the Billiken statue in the Tsūtenkaku Tower is at least one hour long…
Biliken Statue, Shinsekai, Osaka
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: Osaka Bay, spectacular bird’s-eye night view