Benten is the goddess of the sea, also referred to as the Goddess of Love, Beauty, and Eloquence. She’s often depicted riding a dragon or a serpent in Japanese art surrounded by her symbols of boats, dragons, guitars, snakes and saltwater. She is Queen of the Seas and because of her affinity with dragons, she carries a jewel that grants wishes.
It is said that she descended to earth to meet and marry a dragon in order to stop him eating young children.
Another legend tells of how the goddess helped the young poet Baishu. He had found a poem in a pool of water near a temple dedicated to Benten. Despite never having seen the writer, he fell in love immediately. He went to the temple and promised to perform a religious service at the alter of Benten. On the seventh night a young girl entered the temple grounds. With her fan concealing her pretty face, she knelt beside Baishu and began to sing.
Praying to the goddess for help, Benten arranged for the young poet and the girl to meet outside the shrine. When they reached his house, the young woman said they had been married by Benten. They immediately began living as husband and wife. Later, it turned out that the young girl Baishu had fallen in love with was actually the soul of the women he later met in Kyoto and married.
Benten is one of the Seven Divinities of Luck and is the only female among the Seven Gods of Fortune in Japan. She brings inspiration and talent, wealth and romance to those who honor her. Traditionally, she uses a white serpent as her messenger.
In some tales about Benten, she is the daughter of the Dragon King and therefore has the form of a dragon. In many stories about Benton, she has the form of a human with eight arms.
Before Enoshima appeared, a terrible dragon lived on the mainland, eating the children from the nearby village now called Koshigoe. Around the sixth century, an earthquake caused Enoshima to erupt. Benton appeared above it in the clouds, searching for the dragon. When she found his abode, she married the dragon, ending his taste for human flesh.
With Benton’s arrival, the beautiful island Enoshima rose up from the sea.
An opening celebration was held and the island remains sacred to the goddess to this day.
Dragons are a group of powerful spiritual entities. They are sometimes viewed as beings similar to yōkai, but they are often portrayed as gods, depending on their power. In Japan, they are typically serpentine creatures with four legs and three or four toes.
Monsters, ghosts, fantastic beings, and supernatural phenomena thrive in the folklore and popular culture of Japan. Broadly labeled yokai, these creatures come in infinite shapes and sizes, from tengu mountain goblins and kappa water spirits to shape-shifting foxes and long-tongued ceiling-lickers.
Many yokai originated in local legends, folktales, and regional ghost stories, and are now part of Japan’s daily culture.
Artist Toriyama Sekien (1712–88) was the first to compile illustrated encyclopedias detailing the appearances and habits of these creepy-crawlies from myth and folklore.
Ever since their debut over two centuries ago, encyclopedias have inspired generations of Japanese artists. Japandemonium Illustrated represents the very first time they have ever been available in English.
This historical compilation includes complete translations of all four of Sekien’s yokai masterworks: the 1776 Gazu Hyakki Yagyo (The Illustrated Demon Horde’s Night Parade), the 1779 Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki (More Illustrated Demons from Past and Present), the 1780 Konjaku Hyakki Shui (Even More Demons from Past and Present), and the 1784 Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro (An Idle Horde of Things).