Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jizo-A Very Popular Japanese Bodhisattva

On a previous post, Ohara Japan-Gardens at Sanzenn Temple, I wrote that the above figures on the ground were either Jizo or Hotai. My friend ytsl of Webs of Signficance asked who Jizo and Hotai were and rather than write a lengthy comment on her blog I'm answering her here. I'm reasonably sure the figure on the ground is the Bodhisattva Jizo who is very very popular in Japan. The Bodhisattva Hotai is usually associated with Chinese religious beliefs so I'll write about him at a later date.

Jizo is known as a protector of children, travelers and women. In Japan he's associated with unborn, miscarried and aborted children. Hats, bibs and clothing often adorn him and sometimes toys are left. Offerings are left by grieving parents to help protect their lost ones or as a thank you for their child recovering from a serious illness.

A statue of Jizo in Tokyo's Ueno Park . Jizo with a nimbus around his head is dressed in a simple robe, his head is shaved, he carries a staff with six rings to warn animals of his arrival and in his hand he holds a wish fulfilling jewel which blesses those who suffer. He also wears a cloth bib.

Jizo in a small shrine next to a Buddha from the Edo Road in the Sugamo area of Tokyo. Jizo wears a red hat and bib and has offerings of flowers. Someone is making a wish or leaving a donation.

A neighborhood shrine near the Tenno-ji Temple in the Yanaka area of Tokyo. Jizo with hat and bib is surrounded by offerings of origami cranes. I saw crane offerings at several neighborhood Jizo shrines.

A large figure of Jizo at Hase-dera Temple above the city of Kamakura, the bay and the Miura peninsula.

Jizos Jizos everywhere at Hase-dera Temple.

This figure wears a yellow hand knitted hat. In Kamakura at the Hase-dera Temple.

An informal shrine along the Kamo-gawa River in Kyoto.

A neighborhood shrine in the Okubo area of Tokyo near where I stayed. I stopped so many times to look and take pictures that the caretaker gave me a print out about the shrine. She and her husband run a store next to the shrine and are its caretakers. The shrine has been in existence for 400 years not at this exact location but in this area of Tokyo. Of course I couldn't read the print out myself but know someone who translated it for me. Notice elaborate clothing on these figures.

The same Okubo neighborhood shrine last November. (The photo above was taken in May.) Notice the fall clothing on the figures and the toy offering. I saw toys and soda left at this shrine many days. After a day the caretakes put the offerings in baskets kept on the side of the shrine.

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