An incarnation of Miroku Bodhisattva, the Japanese name for Maitreya Buddha who returns at the time when Buddhism has been forgotten to teach the dharma again.
Hotei is the Japanese god of contentment and happiness and guardian of children.
He carries a large cloth bag over his back that never empties, for he uses it to feed the poor and needy. He also holds a Chinese circular fan called an oogi, a “wish giving” fan used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted.
Hotei is also a fortuneteller whose predictions always come true. The only catch is that he will not tell the future to any person who does not sincerely affirm a desire to know the complete truth.
One story tells of Hotei walking along and is stopped by an acolyte who asks him what the meaning of nirvana is. Without a word, Hotei displays and then drops his bag. The acolyte observes this with some confusion and then asks how he might attain nirvana. Without a word, Hotei consciously picks up his bag and resumes his journey.