Few Japanese and fewer Indians realize most Deities worshipped in Japan are of Indian origin. “A majority of Japanese Gods are actually Indian Gods,” was a common line of the former Japanese Ambassador to India, Yasukuni Enoki. Hindu Deities were imported wholesale from the 6th century onwards. “These Indian Deities were introduced from China into Japan as Buddhist Deities with Chinese names,” writes Sengaku Mayeda of Japan’s Eastern Institute. Thanks to the centuries and translation hurdles, the names and appearances of the Gods have become localized to the point of anonymity.
An example is Shichifukujin, the popular Japanese sect of the Seven Deities of Fortune. This pantheon includes Sarasvati, Shiva and Vaisravana - under their Japanese names of, respectively, Benzaiten, Daikokuten and Bishamonten. Some names are direct Japanese translations. Daikokuten means “great head God”, a direct translation of one of Shiva’s names, Mahakala.