Some information about Jizo in Japanese culture

Did you know? Jizo Stone statues of Jizo (Ksitigarbha) are seen all over the country. some are housed in beautiful temples, some in little huts, and others are found standing by the country roadsides. They are one of the most popular kinds of statues that has become so characteristic of country life.

Jizo was originally Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) of Buddhism who stood between the world of reality and the world of the dead and saved those who were on their way to the netherworld. Jizo was entrusted with the task of saving the people after the death of Buddha until such a time when the second Buddha would appear. so in Buddhism he had an important position, and coming to Japan he has been popularized, and has become the protector of the people.

Jizo is thought to be a mild, gentle and kind Bosatsu - Jizo-gao (Jizo-face) means a gentle, smiling face.

A Jizo-bosatsu helps relieve people who are suffering from distress.

Dosojin is a roadside icon usually placed at a street corner or at the foot of a bridge to protect pedestrians.


Fortune-telling Jizo:
When one loses some valuables, wishes to know the meaning of a dream he had the night before, desires to locate a missing person, or wants to find a remedy for his illness, it is customary in some districts to consult Jizo. Jizo is believed to be able to give answers to all such questions.


Probably because fires are quite frequent in the countly, there are many Jizo which are believed to have power to extinguish fire. These Jizo are worshipped in various districts by those rural people who believe that this god will save them at the time of fire.


In many different places throughout the country, there are Jizo statues called Migawari-Jizo or Jizo who take the place of people. It is commonly believed if a man worships Jizo, Jizo will take his place when he is in some great difficulty, or in danger of losing his life. There are numerous stories telling how Jizo statues were killed or attacked in place of their worshippers. Jizo statues having such traditional tales have many worshippers because the people believe that such Jizo would save them in emergencies.


Throughout Japan there are quite a number of Jizo statues which are called Tauye-Jizo or rice planting Jizo, which are worshipped by farmers in the hope it will aid their rice-planting. There are many traditional tales telling of Jizo giving aid to farmers in the rice-planting season.


The names of Buddhist temples (tera or o-tera) usually end in the suffixes "-ji" or "-in" (To-ji, Jako-in), but occasionally "-dera" (Oka-dera). Shinto shrines (jinja) end in "-jinja" (Yasaka Jinja), or for larger shrines "-jingu" or just "-gu" (Meiji Jingu, Kitano Tenman-gu), and occasionally "-taisha" (Sumiyoshi Taisha). The word miya is the same character as -gu (large shrine) and is commonly used in place names, but is pronounced gu in the names of actual shrines.

I have mentioned Jizo shrines, which are in fact not buildings, nor are they Shinto. They are little stone monuments, usually about the size and shape of a rounded stone mile-post, with the face of the Buddhist deity Jizo (jee-zo) carved into them. If you don't see lots of them, you're not getting away from it all.

Many of the stone Jizos are very old and look it, with all detail worn away from the rounded stone. People on religious pilgrimages -- or just on their way to a shrine -- will stop to say a prayer and leave a little offering (a coin, candle, fruit, or flower) at every little Jizo they pass. Jizos are often clothed in red bibs, often dozens and dozens of them, which are also commonly left as offerings. In Japanese Buddhism, Jizo is regarded as a savior of children and protector of travelers. Roadside statues of Jizo are found throughout Japan.

A story I found about of a particular Jizo is given below:

"When I got back from our three-day school trip, I re-read "Angry Jizo." It is a story about the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

 A brilliant flash painted the town white. It was as if the sun had fallen before his very eyes. People wearing scorched and tattered shirts fled past the fallen Jizo, dragging their feet on the ground. When the fires finally died down, the city of Hiroshima had become a vast field of burnt-out ruins, without houses or schools or office buildings or trees or flowers. A badly burned little girl collapsed face down in front of the stone Jizo. Her entire back was bright red, as if draped with a blanket of red peonies. "Mo-m-my, water. I want some water," the girl said, looking at the stone Jizo. "Some water, please, water."

Before this, the stone Jizo had been known as "Smiling Jizo," but at this point, tears fell from his angry eyes. Mr. Uchida and all the other survivors shed tears just like this stone Jizo. For the sake of all those who died, they have joined the movement to ban the bomb and they call for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. It's something they feel they just have to do."

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