Takarabune (treasure ship) (宝船)

Takarabune (treasure ship) is the sailing ship on which Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Luck) and treasures are loaded, or the picture that depicts the scene. It is also a season word that represents New Year.

They say there are various treasures such as corals, gold and silver, and jewelry are loaded on Takarabune. Therefore, Takarabune is considered to be an auspicious ship, and figures that depict Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Luck) on board of this ship are popular as lucky charms. The kanji character '獏' (baku), which is mythological Chinese chimera similar to a tapir, said to devour bad dreams, is sometimes written on its sail.

On the picture that depicts Takarabune, a kaibunka (palindrome) may be written as follows.
Nagaki yo no To no nefuri no Mina mezame, Nami nori fune no oto no yoki kana
(From the deep sleep/Of a long night/Waking/Sweet is the sound/Of the ship as it rides the waves)
And, it is said that sleeping with the picture under your pillow on January second would make you happy with auspicious Hatsuyume (the first dream in the New Year).


It is said that Takarabune took the current form in later years. It is also said that the origin of Takarabune was much simpler as a ship used for 'yumechigae' (putting a spell on bad dreams not to become true) or 'yumebarae (purifying bad dreams not to become true) on which bad dreams are floated down rivers to wash away bad luck (it is based on the idea of Oharae (the great purification) in which you let the water carry impurities away).

In the Muromachi period, pictures of the ship were given to people on Setsubun (the traditional end of winter) night or on New Year's Eve, then were collected following morning after people slept on them to float away on water or to bury, which suggests that Takarabune was considered as something to be washed or to cleanse bad luck.

Treasure ship of He ZHENG

During the Ming Dynasty in China, He ZHENG journeyed across the seas from Southeast Asia to the east coast of Africa. The center of the fleet was a huge ship called treasure ship of He ZHENG, which was the largest-ever at the time with total length of over 120m. The cargo was quite simply that of a treasure ship. Jewelry and earthenware were loaded up as gifts for the port of call at departure, and mitsugimjono (tribute) such as uncommon animals that Chinese people at the time did not know including giraffes and lions were loaded up on the return.

[Original Japanese]