In Japanese and Asian cultures, there are many physical traits that are considered to be attractive. A lot of the attractive traits are universally true across most cultures, but there are a few that are more specific to Japan. For instance, yaeba (snaggle tooth), anyone?
Unfortunately, I’m not here to talk about yaeba. That is a future topic to be covered by one of our esteemed authors. What I’ll be covering today is another trait that many Western cultures would not consider an attractive quality: lucky ears or
Just by reading the term, lucky ears, one might ask oneself how is lucky a physical description for ears. It’s actually what the person is blessed with if they carried the defining feature. A person with large earlobes is considered to be blessed with luck and wealth in his or her life. If you are fortunate enough to be adorned with large ear lobes, you may have received compliments for them by your Japanese friend or an Asian acquaintance. Why is that?
Origins of the Ear Phenomenon
The origins of this wealth-earlobe relationship seems to be a bit of a fuzz, but the common origin story is the OG Buddhist man himself, Siddhartha.
Before situating himself to a frugal lifestyle, Siddhartha was born and raised in a royal and subsequently wealthy family. As part of the wealthy wardrobe, heavy earrings were worn. You may have guessed, wearing heavy accessories on the ears takes a toll on fatty tissue and stretches out the lobe. Being quite the celebrity in Asia, everyone thought if they had earlobes like him they would run into some wealth. Nevermind the qualities needed to achieve nirvana, it’s all about achieving wealth!
It is also said in Buddism that having large ear lobes is the required vessel to hear the voice of god as well as natural revelations. Due to the developed relationship between having big ear lobes and wealth/luck, the imagery is prevalent in many Buddhist statues and Asian literature & art.
One specific example of big ear lobes found in Japanese mythology is the Seven Gods of Fortune or
- Benzaiten, goddess of knowledge, art, and beauty.
- Bishamonten, god of warriors.
- Daikokuten, god of wealth, commerce, and trade.
- Ebisu, god of fishers and merchants. Said to be often depicted as a sea bream, but also has been sighted as a beer brand produced by Sapporo Brewery.
- Fukurokuju, god of happiness, wealth, and longevity.
- Hotei, god of abundance and good health
- Jurōjin, god of longevity
Can you point out each god in the image above? One common feature that is shared among these gods are each possess large ear lobes. Popular folklore, like the one above, reinforces the idea that individuals with large ears will be favored by luck and fortune.
The importance of the ear can also be seen in a few favorable kanji where the ear radical can be spotted.
As you can see, the ear radical can be found in words that closely relate to luck and wealth. Wealth in itself isn’t necessarily restricted to monetary and materialistic value, but also pertains to knowledge. Although, there is also the strong belief in Asian culture that knowledge is proportional to monetary wealth and power. Hence, the earned stereotype of Asians having their noses in books all the time.
Ok, I’ll be honest. The sole reason of the generalization is because we are just scared of our tiger moms.
This is probably more than what you were expecting to read about on the topic of ears, but there you have it. Are you a carrier of the lucky ears? Have you run into some wealth and luck recently?
And no, ear gauging doesn’t count. That’s cheating!