Here are Billiken/Billy Can words & images gathered from the web by E.Z.Smith. There seem to be conflicting thoughts about the origin and nature of Billiken/Billy Can, as befits a god, folk hero, sports mascot, or toilet training aid.


Secret Story Of Billiken

Revival of "Billiken boom" in Japan

Coming to Tokyo !

 


What is a Billiken?



I have been asked many times the questons What is a Billiken? What
is it's Origin? Who made it?

Well I have read 3 things about where it came from. But first I will tell you what it is. From what I have read (and correct me if you have heard different) that the Billiken is a Good Luck Symbol or Charm. It is made to bring St. Louis University Teams Good Luck... That is what I have read.

How the Billiken became attached to the University remains a matter of
debate. It seems to have happened sometime between 1910 and 1911 at the
height of Billikenmania.

St. Louis sports writer William O'Connor decided that SLU football coach John Bender resembled the Billiken. Later, Charles McNamara drew a cartoon of Bender in the form of a Billiken and posted it in the window of a drugstore. The football team soon became known as Bender's Billikens.


St. Louis Billikens

 


 

**THE BILLIKEN MAN Song, Words by E.Ray Goetz, Music by Melville, J. Gideon As Introduced by the Miss Blanche Ring, Famous Singing Comedienne. This song is published in 1909 by Special Arrangement with the Billiken Co., Chicago, Owners of the Copyright of "Billiken" five pages, on the back end paper there are nine extra Billiken Verses.

One verse reads: Once a fat man went a-swimmin; from the surf he tripped, He was flirtin, with some woman, When his new suit ripped. As he sat down in the sand, He said "Billikens don't stand", I'm a Billiken Man, a Billiken Man.

 


 

Review:
Billiken-The Movie

by Aaron Gerow

Japanese title: Biriken
Production Company: Kino
Release: 3 August 1996
Length: 100 min.
Format: 35 mm; 1:1.85
Color: Color

 

It's 'Billiken' to the Rescue

Put a coin in the donation box, rub the soles of his feet, and make a wish. Billiken the god of fortune will make us all happy.

Billiken who? The eponymous star of Sakamoto Junji's comedy, Billiken--a squat, dumpy figure with a mischievous smile and pointy head--is a character from real life. Created by an American sculptor in 1908, the bizarre statue became quite a hit in the teens and twenties in both the United States and Japan, and a shrine was even built in his honor in Osaka's Shinsekai district.

Billiken, however, has long since been forgotten. So, in some ways, have old entertainment centers like Shinsekai which, like New York's Coney Island or Tokyo's Asakusa, used to be the places to go to enjoy the thrills of modernity, to celebrate the then new fashions and fads like the movies and Billiken. However, these entertainment areas now seem somewhat pathetic and run down.

Starting with his delightful Knockout ("Dotsuitarunen," 1989) and Checkmate ("Ote,&quot), 1991), and continuing with Billiken, the Osaka-born Sakamoto has continued to offer a slightly nostalgic but always enjoyable portrait of the unique and irreverent culture of Shinsekai. In Billiken, the existence of the region itself is under threat as real estate developers propose to tear down Shinsekai and its symbol, the Tsutenkaku Tower, as part of efforts to bring the 2004 Olympics to Osaka.

As a defense, the head of Tsutenkaku (Kishibe Ittoku) tries a couple of absurd strategies to revive the popularity of the tower. He finally succeeds by reinstalling the forgotten statue of Billiken. But Billiken causes a commotion by fulfilling even the most ridiculous wishes.

To bring the wooden Billiken to life--to flesh out his character, so to speak--Sakamoto cleverly has the eccentric actor Sugimoto Tetta play the spirit of Billiken (he apparently prepared for his role by sleeping with the Billiken statue every night).

The movie's most delightful points are when Sugimoto, invisible to those outside of Tsutenkaku, scampers around Shinsekai trying to grant everyone's wishes, from leading a favorite horse to victory, to improving a man's sexual energy and even curing someone's hemorrhoids.

Billiken/Sugimoto fights the conniving real estate developer Ekage (Gan Ryutaro), a traitor to his native Shinsekai. He even falls in love with a young teacher Tsukino (Yamaguchi Tomoko), but it is when the fulfillment of these wishes begins to cause problems and Billiken gets thrown out of Tsutenkaku that the tight and well-paced script begins to unravel.

Billiken's eventual triumph is also a bit haphazard, which only reinforces the impression that Sakamoto's portrait of Shinsekai is best when it focuses on the area's communal ambiance, the peculiar but honest humanity of its collection of characters.

Here being out-of-fashion is cool. And Japanese religion is neither Zen nor the animism of Shinto, but the bonds of belief in one's hometown, even if it is made up of petty gangsters, homeless people, hucksters, and modern showmen like Sakamoto.

Billiken does not rise up to the level of Sakamoto's previous work, but maybe re-encountering out-of-style idols like Billiken can help us all be a little bit more happy.


Sugimoto Tetta as Billiken

 

 Subject: a note about the Osaka Billiken
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2004


Hello,
I was out on the internet looking for a little information about the
Billiken and I came across your site. I happened to have been to the
Osaka Tsutenkaku Tower a little over a week ago and can indeed report
that Billiken is there, and seems to be a rather popular spot for
Kodak moments with the tower visitors. Here's a link to a picture and
a site in Japanese. I imagine that you probably can't read it. (If you
can, well, all the better. I can make out some of it - enough to get
the gist of what's going on.)
But it let's you see that the figure is there and last week he looked
about as he does in the picture on this page.
http://www.kuidaore-osaka.com/2top/deep/01_tanpou/0003/column01.html
Hope you can see it.
-jonathan c. isaacson
akita-ken, Japan

 


 

Darling pair of Billy Can and Billy Can't figures made of chalkware. They look as tho someone has repainted them, so I priced accordingly. You can see by the bottoms, tho, that they ARE old. Great for collectors of chanberpots, Billikens or just Good Luck in general. You can't see the lettering on the fronts of the figs. very well, but it is incised into the chalk and does say BILLYCAN (w/ a backwards n) on one and BILLYCAN'T on the other. The reason is obvious, eh?

 


 

Here some other variations:

Billiken Bank

 

Billiken Bookends

 

Billiken Token

 

Billiken Salt & Pepper-A

 

Billiken Tooth Pick Stand

 

Billy Can Salt & Pepper-B

 

Whale Tooth Billiken from Alaska

 

And my favorite, a Nixon Billiken.


 

Subject: Billiken History
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 21:41:29 -0800
From: Verbeck Smith <hvsmith@mindspring.com>
Reply-To: hvsmith@pobox.com
To: ezsmith@e-z-smith.com

Dear Mr Smith:

I'm writing to you because you have some information about the billiken
that is circulating on the Internet. Yours is one of three primary sites
that I found, and all have just part of the early information on these
artifacts and collectibles. Unfortunately, there is no published
research available on Internet that I have been able to find, and the
articles about them, including the one referred to in your information,
are unavailable to most people.

That first article appeared in the Alaska Sportsman, September 1960.
Dorothy Jean Ray, the author, wrote a longer and more detailed piece
with illustrations for the Alaska Journal, Winter 1974. She is
disappointed that no one has used that piece as a reference, from what
she has read and heard. She has asked me if there is any way to get the
second article published on the Internet, and I told her that I know of
none.

Dorothy Jean Ray, anthropologist and historian, is a recognized
authority on the history of the Iñupiat Eskimo people of the Bering
Strait and on Eskimo art. She resides in Port Townsend, Washington,
where she and her late husband, Verne Ray, retired from his work in
anthropology at the University of Washington.

She has an original copy of the 1974 magazine, and she has agreed to
make a copy of her article in that, if you wish to have me send it.

After speaking with her, I looked in her most recent publication and
found most of the information about the billiken, including some of the
same photos. This book is widely available in libraries and is still in
print, if you are interested. See:
A Legacy of Arctic Art, University of Alaska Museum, University of
Washington Press, Seattle, 1996. pp. 15, 132, 164-9, 177.

My interest in all this is as a result of my deceased wife's work
centered on her paternal grandparents' decade teaching the Iñupiat
people of Kingegan village (Wales) in Alaska Territory. Mrs. Ray was
Kathleen's mentor during the process of publishing two works based on
letters, art, and papers in her family's Alaskana collection. For
details about all this, see our Website:
http://www.icewindow.com

Thank you for your time.

Verbeck Smith, Seattle
hvsmith@pobox.com

Reply:
Dear Verbeck
Congratulations , you've just become one of the authorities on the subject of billikens. Since everything I know about them has been gathered from the net and added to this page, then it seems only fitting that your letter be added to the mix. If you e-mail me a copy of Dorothy Jean Ray's article, I'll add it to my page too.

Good hunting.

 


 

Subject: Billiken
Date: Wed, 30 May 2007

Hi, would you like another photo of a Billiken? My husband bought me a concrete one many, many years ago at a junk store in Callaway County Missouri. It made me laugh, so he thought I needed it. He had one of those 'I'm a nice husband moments'. Anyway, it's been traveling around MO from one move to the next and has always been a yard ornament. A Navajo man who use to visit us from time to time liked it, and would turn it towards the East every time he came to visit. So, if you want another photo of one, I'll go out and take a digital of it and email it to you. It's currently painted red, but has been many colours thru the years. Originally it was painted white.

Judiann