Statues are often a vessel to either commemorate or honor something or someone that is important to Japanese culture, and they can also be beacons of protection or tokens of luck or other positive attributes. The Jizo statue is one that is known to offer protection for children and travelers.
Thus, if you’re traveling to Japan, it’s worth seeking out a miniature Jizo statue to bring along with you on your travels.
You’ll encounter Jizo statues of all kinds in your travels throughout Japan, so it’s worth learning all about their cultural significance so you can spot them when making your way through the country.
The Origins Of The Jizo Statue
Jizo is regarded as a guardian deity for travelers, as well as children, in Japanese culture. A Jizo is a somewhat general name for a Bodhisattva or a Buddhist god. They hold off on nirvana despite having achieved enlightenment so they can help others on their own journeys.
A Jizo statue is also known as an O-Jizo-San or O-Jizo Sama in Japanese. They are inspired by the Jizo Bosatsu, which is the deity of children and travelers; thus, many statues are regarded as the same.
Jizo And Buddhism
The Jizo holds a lot of importance in the Buddhist faith. They are known as deities who protect people throughout all six realms of life.
Jizo And Children
Jizo represents protection and safety for children, especially for those who have passed away. Jizo statues also offer protection for children who have not been born or those who have passed away within the womb.
This is significant for Japanese culture given the belief that small children who pass on before their parents do need guidance into the afterlife.
This is because they do not have the amount of karma usually needed in order to make their way into the afterlife.
Thus, Jizo will help these children make their way past the river by concealing them from any evil that might try to hurt them on their journey.
Jizo And Travelers
The Jizo being a protector for travelers is based on the old Japanese tradition of displaying the Dosojin, a couple that represented two deities that would watch over others that are traveling.
The statues would usually be around places that travelers would often pass through, such as on paths, roadways, crossroads, and by mountains.
What Jizo Statues Are Made Of
Jizo statues can be made from a variety of materials. They are most popularly constructed using bronze and clay; however, they are most often found made of stone.
Two of the prominent features of these statues are their red hats or hoods, and their red bibs. These two garments are said to help protect the deity, as red helps to keep evil away according to Japanese cultural beliefs.
Red is also supposed to help ward off potential illnesses from those they are meant to protect. Many locals in Japan will knit hats and bibs for Jizo statues as it’s said to help bring them good karma.
The Significance Of Stone Towers
There are also usually small stone towers built around the Jizo. This is because when children are waiting to pass to the other side into the afterlife, they will usually build stone towers to help their parents when it is their turn.
People will subsequently build small towers near a Jizo in order to help out, given that the bad spirits will usually destroy them every day. When the towers are broken by the bad spirits, the childrens’ spirits are less protected than before.
Where Jizo Statues Are Found
Throughout Japan, you are bound to stumble upon a Jizo statue in a person’s garden or in front of their home.
They are also features that can be found in some graveyards in Japan. It’s also commonplace to see Jizo statues amongst Buddhist temples.
Famous Jizo Statues In Japan
There are some landmarks that you can visit throughout Japan that will have a Jizo statue as part of their scenery.
There is a fairly substantial Jizo statue in place of the authentic one on the rooftop of the Ginza Mitsukoshi, which is a well-known chain of department stores in Japan.
It’s known as the Ginza Shusse Jizo; shusse means promotion given that most Jizo live on the streets, but this one got moved to the top of a building.
You can visit the authentic one as well, as it’s just beside the larger one.
There are a plethora of Jizo statues that surround the steps towards the entrance of the Daisho-in Temple in Itsukushima in Hiroshima. This temple is also centuries old and has a rich history.
The monk known for establishing the Shingon sect of the Buddhist faith, Kukai, is responsible for helping the Daisho-in Temple come to fruition.
The Jizo statues have different facial features and are inspired by different characters, so they are a lot of fun to explore and take a closer look at while going up and down the stairs.
This temple, among other things, has an entire wall of Jizo statues, including one that pours water, as well as three sets of smiling Jizos.
If you manage to find all three sets while you’re visiting the temple, it’s said that you will be blessed with a wonderful relationship.
Hasedera Temple Official Website
The Hasedera Temple can be found in Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture and has been in place since the 700s. There is also a statue of the goddess of mercy, Kannon, who is known for having eleven heads.
This temple can be found near the Tokyo Tower, and it’s known to be one that’s very important to Buddhism’s Jodo sect.
The temple wasn’t always in Tokyo, but it was moved when Tokugawa Ieyasu wanted to bring it to the city for his family.
Zojo-ji Temple Official Website
The original temple was built in 1393 and was rebuilt in 1622 after being destroyed. At the current structure, there are also over one thousand Jizo statues with signature red hoods and pinwheels that turn in the wind. This Article was Written For TankenJapan.com