TOPMachiya & Kyoto GuideAll About Machiya‘Hyotan’ Japanese gourds

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'Hyotan' Japanese gourds: A Symbol of Good Luck

Do the shape of these lamp shades remind you of anything? These are “hyotan” Japanese gourds, which have been considered to be symbols of good luck since ancient times. Having 3 gourds in a row in particular is said to be particularly auspicious, which is why you will often see these hyotan in groups of 3. If you notice a group of 6 hyotan gourds, it symbolizes a prayer to ward off illnesses. (Gourds were also used to store medicine in the past).

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Japanese samurai commander who unified Japan in the late 16th century, was particularly fond of hyotan gourds. Hideyoshi used hyotan as his battle ensign, and every time a battle was won, he increased the number of gourds to signify a win. Thus, the hyotan gourd became associated as a symbol of luck.

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