Sanskrit / Pali
Earth Womb, Savior from Hell's Torments, Protector of
Children, Expectant Mothers, Travelers and Pilgrims
Sai nying po
Sai snying po
Jizō is the only portrayed as a monk -- shaven head, no adornments, no royal attire, nearly always dressed in the simple of a monk. A halo often surrounds the head. Jizō’s customary symbols are the 錫杖 (six-ring staff) and the hōjunotama 宝珠の玉 (wish-granting jewel). When Jizō shakes the staff, it awakens us from our delusions, to help us break free of the and achieve enlightenment. The jewel (Skt. = Cintamani) signifies Jizō’s bestowal of blessings on all who suffer, for the jewel grants wishes, pacifies desires, and brings clear understanding of the Dharma (Buddhist law).
Sanskrit Seed, pronounced KA in Japan. In Shingon Buddhism, when young children die, this Sanskrit seed is written on the memorial tablet to signify that the powerless child is saved and enabled to attain enlightenment.
One of the most beloved of all Japanese divinities, Jizō works to ease the suffering and shorten the sentence of those serving time in hell, to deliver the faithful into western paradise (where inhabitants are no longer trapped in the of desire and karmic rebirth), and to answer the prayers of the living for health, success, children, and all manner of mundane petitions. In modern Japan, Jizō is a savior par excellence, a friend to all, never frightening even to children, and his/her many manifestations -- often cute and cartoon-like in contemporary times -- incorporate Taoist, Buddhist, and elements.
Jizō is a (Jp. Bosatsu), one who achieves enlightenment but postpones until all can be saved. Jizō is often translated as Womb of the Earth, for JI 地 means earth, while ZŌ 蔵 means womb. But ZŌ can also be translated with equal correctness as “store house” or “repository of treasure” -- thus Jizō is often translated as Earth Store or Earth Treasury. Jizō embodies supreme spiritual optimism, compassion, and universal salvation, all hallmarks of .
This deity appears in numerous . One of the most widely known is the (Jp. = Jizō Bosatsu Hongan Kyō 地藏菩薩本願経), in which Jizō vows to remain among us doing good works and to help and instruct all those spinning endlessly in the , especially the souls of the departed who are undergoing judgment by the (thus explaining why Jizō statues are commonly found in Japanese graveyards). Jizō promises to unceasingly fulfill these tasks in the eons-long interval between the death of the and the arrival of (the Future Buddha). is scheduled to arrive, according to Japan’s Shingon 真言 sect of (Mikkyō 密教), about 5.6 billion years from now, to bestow universal salvation on all beings.
Jizō appears in to alleviate the suffering of the living and the dead. In modern Japan, Jizō is popularly venerated as the guardian of unborn, aborted, miscarried, and stillborn babies (. These roles were not assigned to Jizō in earlier Buddhist traditions from mainland Asia; they are instead modern adaptations unique to Japan. At the same time, Jizō serves his/her customary and traditional roles as patron saint of expectant mothers, women in labor, children, firemen, travelers, pilgrims, and the protector of all beings caught in the . Jizō is also one of the 十三仏 (Jūsanbutsu) of the Shingon Sect of in Japan. In this role, Jizō presides over the memorial service held on the 35th day following one's death. In the of Japan’s esoteric sects, Jizō appears as the central figure in the . In the , Jizō appears as Kongōdō Bosatsu 金剛幢 (one of the ).
Jizō is also, like (the God/Goddess of Mercy), one of ’s main attendants and, like Kannon, is one of the most popular modern deities in Japan’s Pure Land (Jōdo 浄土) sects. The two share many overlapping functions -- both protect the (the , the ), both are (, ), and both protect the souls of aborted children (, ). In some scriptures, they even share the same Ennichi 縁日 (Holy Day). The 18th day of each month is considered ’s Ennichi. , but at many temples it occurs on the 18th.
Jizō Mantra in Japanese Language
On kakaka bisanmaei sowaka (Japanese)
Om ha-ha-ha vismaye svaha (Sanskrit)
Om Fa La Ma Me Na Ni So Ha 唵花啦媽咪那呢梭哈 (Chinese)
JIZŌ’S VARIOUS FORMS IN JAPAN (Partial List)
Many Japanese, even today, believe Jizō will save them at any time, in any situation, without any conditions or stipulations beyond simple faith. Even those who have already fallen into the pit of hell are promised assistance. Jizō is thus very popular and depicted in countless forms throughout Japan. Many originated in recent centuries and are unique to this island nation (not found elsewhere in Asia). It is no exaggeration to say that nearly all villages and localities have their own beloved Jizō statues, which are frequently given unique names defining their specific salvific functions. Some of Japan’s innumerable Jizō emanations (both traditional and modern) include:
Jizō often appears
cute in modern Japan.
Zenkōji Temple (Nagano).
Zenkōji Temple (Nagano).
outside store selling
Jizō talismans (Kyoto)
Modern Wood Carving
Jizo, Kamakura Era
Jufuku-ji Temple. Now kept at
National Museum in Kamakura
When and how Jizō was introduced to China is unknown, but from the (7th century), Jizō is already closely associated with the earth and with the Lord of Death (Skt. = Yama, Chn. = Yanmo Wang 閻魔王, Jp. = Emma-ō). Only later, in China’s late Sung dynasty (960–1279), does Jizō become associated with the and appear in Chinese artwork surrounded by the ten. In Japan, Jizō first appears in records of the Nara Period (710 to 794 AD), and then spreads throughout Japan via the . According to an old legend, the first Jizō statue was brought to Japan from China and installed at Tachibanadera 橘寺 during the reign of Emperor Shōmu 聖武 (reigned 724-49), but was later moved to Hōryūji 法隆寺 Temple in Nara. <see Dykstra, Monumenta Nipponica, Summer 1978 edition>
In Japan, Jizō appears first in the in the Nara period (now a treasure held by the Nara National Museum), but the height of Jizō’s early popularity was during the late Heian era (794 to 1192 AD) when the rise of the Jōdo Sect 浄土 (Pure Land Sect devoted to ) intensified fears about hell in the afterlife (see ). Due to Jizō’s association with the realm of death and suffering souls, Jizō is also closely associated with and with Amida’s heavenly western paradise, where true believers may seek enlightenment and avoid the torments of hell. In traditional artwork, Jizō is the only commonly portrayed as a monk. Although the origins of this iconography are unclear, some scholars believe Jizō’s depiction as a priest stems from a 7th-century Korean monk named Gin Chau Jue who resided for 75 years at Chiu-hua-shan in China (present day Anhui Province) and who was considered an incarnation of Jizō. When the monk died in 728 (at the age of 99), legend contents that his body did not decay, and was subsequently gilded over and venerated as an emanation of Jizō. < Source. Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms by Soothill & Hodous, ISBN 8121511453. >
The Jizō cult in Japan incorporates many of the traditional characteristics of Jizō veneration in China, but the Japanese developed their own distinct variants from the Kamakura period onward, including (1) Jizō’s close association with the Lotus Sutra; (2) Jizō serving the same functions and roles as ; (3) Jizō’s very close association with and the Pure Land sect; (4) Jizō and the and the ; (5) Jizō as having the same body as , the King of Hell; (6) Jizō’s association with warriors; (7) Jizō appearing as a young child or boy and; (8) unique to Japan. Since the Kamakura period, Jizō worship has attained a tremendous following in Japan, and today Jizō remains one of Japan's most revered deities.
Male or Female or Both?
In Japan today, Jizō Bosatsu and are two of the most popular Buddhist saviors among the common folk. Like Jizō, is intimately associated with , for is one of Amida’s principal attendants. Statues of , moreover, often include a tiny image (Jp. = Kebutsu 化仏) of in the headdress. Curiously, both Jizō and underwent a change in identity after arriving in Japan. is male in the Buddhist traditions of India, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. But in China (less so in Japan), the is typically portrayed as a female divinity.
In Japan, the male form was initially adopted, and it remains the predominant form in traditional Japanese sculpture and art. But female manifestations of are nonetheless plentiful in Japan. Indeed, a persistent femininity clings to imagery in both pre-modern and modern Japan. This holds true in Western nations as well, where is most commonly known as the “Goddess of Mercy.” Conversely, Jizō was initially female, but is now portrayed almost always as male, except, perhaps, when appearing as the ). <Editor’s Note: the reasons for this sex change are confusing and hard to understand; I hope to expand on this in the future>
Jizō in Female Form
Says by Louis Frederic: “The Chinese relates that, before becoming a Bodhisattva, Jizō was a young Indian girl of the so horrified by the torment her late impious mother was suffering in hell that she vowed to save all beings from such torments.” <end Flammarion quote>
Says : “In the , the revealed that in past aeons, Ksitigarbha (Jizō) was a Brahman maiden named Sacred Girl. She was deeply troubled when her mother died, because her mother had often been slanderous toward the Triple Jewels (Skt. = Triratna), which refers to the Buddha himself, the Dharma (Buddhist teachings or law), and the Samgha (the Buddhist community of followers). To save her from the great tortures of hell, the young girl sold whatever she had and used the money to buy offerings which she offered daily to the Buddha of her time, known as the Buddha of Flowering Meditation and Enlightenment. She made fervent prayers that her mother be spared the pains of hell and requested the Buddha for help. One day at the temple, while she was pleading for help, she heard the voice of the Buddha advising her to go home immediately and there to sit down and recite his name if she wanted to know where her mother was. She did as she was told and while doing so, her consciousness was transported to one of the Hell Realms where she met a guardian who informed her that, through Sacred Girl’s fervent prayers and pious offerings, her mother had accumulated much merit and had therefore already been released from hell and had ascended to heaven. Sacred Girl was greatly relieved and should have been extremely happy, but the sight of the great sufferings of those in the hell she had witnessed so touched her heart that she made a vow to do her best to relieve beings of their sufferings in all her future incarnations (Skt. = kalpas).” <end quote from Wikipedia>
Why the Red Bib, Hat, Toys?
Everywhere in Japan, at busy intersections, at roadsides, in graveyards, in temples, and along hiking trails, one will find statues of Jizō Bosatsu decked in clothing, wearing a red or white cap and bib, adorned with toys, protected by scarfs, or piled high with stones offered by sorrowing parents. Such symbolism is based on numerous early influences, which are presented below:
Cute Jizō midway on Kamakura's Kinubariyama Hiking Course
Jizō with white bibs / hats, and Jizō with toys and gown.
Aburakake Jizō 油懸地蔵
Greasy Jizō or Oil-Covered Jizō. There are various manifestations. In the Edo period, at Andōji Machi 安堂寺町 in the center of Osaka, those who suffered from intermittent fever smeared a Jizō statue with oil and prayed to it in the belief Jizō would help them recover. <Sources: and 攝陽群談, 1698, Ch. XII, p. 53> Today, at Saiganji Temple 西岸寺 (a Jodō sect temple) in Kyoto's Fushimi 伏見 district, there is an Aburakake Jizō reportedly dated to the Kamakura period. In olden days, Fushimi was a hub of commerce and trade. Says author Judith Clancy in "Inbound cargo was unloaded on the wharves at Chūshōjima, then carried by porters another two kilometers into Kyoto. One day, an oil vendor from Yamazaki (a place to the southwest of Kyoto known for its sesame oil) was making his way down Aburakake Dōri [lit. = oil-covered street] when he tripped and fell, spilling his precious load. He scooped up what was left and offered it to this wayside Jizō. Thereafter he prospered, and as word spread of his good fortune, others came to pray for success. When they achieved it, they gave thanks by pouring a little bit of oil over the image. Today shopkeepers and businessmen continue the tradition of pouring oil over the glistening 1.7-meter-high image, and offerings of ten-liter cans of oil are stacked inside the hall (page 274)." <end quote>
Fushimi, Kyoto. H = 1.7 meters
Statue only 1.27 meters. Kamakura era. Saiganji Temple 西岸寺.
H = 61 cm. 1523 CE.
Nara City, Nara Prefecture
H. 196 cm. Muromachi era.
Learn more about Aburakake Jizō (J-sites only) | | | |
Agonashi Jizō 腮無地蔵
Lit. = Jizō without a Jaw. Also known as Shitsu Heiyu 歯痛平癒地蔵 (Jizō who Heals Toothaches). Says "In the year 1870, the temple 伴桂寺 at Oki Island 隠岐島 had to close down. The last priest of the temple had been a disciple of the head prist of the Hagi Temple in Osaka, so he gave all his temple treasures to Hagi Temple, including a statue of the "Jizō without a Jaw" reportedly made by Ono no Takamura 小野篁 (802–853), a scholar and poet of Heian Japan. Two years later a special hall was built for the statue, which is now a secret (hibutsu 秘仏) statue and only shown once a year to the public.” Gabi continues: ”Once upon a time in the city of Kanawa in Omiya town on the island of Oki, there lived a man who had a painful toothache. For three days, he was crying all day long 'my tooth aces, my tooth aces so much!' He could not sleep at night and not eat during the day because of the pain. In the end he pulled out his jaw, threw it away - and died. But then, how wonderful, he was reborn as a . The pious people of Oki Island then made a wooden statue of Jizō without a chin and prayed to it when they got a toothache. Soon people from far away also came to pray for healing, and as a gift of gratitude placed one NASHI (pear) into a nearby river or lake or the ocean. This is a pun on the word NASHI (pear) and NASHI (without, to not have) -- in this case, to not have a toothache." <end quote>
Ajimi Jizō 嘗試地蔵
Sweating Jizō. Excretes white sweat if good things are about to happen, and black sweat when bad things are foreseen. for special page about the Sweating Jizō of Japan. There is also a sweating version of called Asekaki Fudō 汗かき不動. In the Muromachi period (1392-1568), whenever there was a major fight in the country, this wooden statue of would drip with sacred sweat 霊汗 and thus became widely revered by warriors. It also became a protector against fires for the town of Edo (modern-day Tokyo). <>
Botamochi Jizō ぼた餅地蔵
Chōenji Temple 長延寺
Ichigaya 市谷 (Tokyo)
Chūji Jizō 忠治地蔵
Also known as Kunisada Chūji Jizō. Cures palsy. Related to the famous Japanese "Robin Hood" and gambler named Kunisada Chūji 国定 忠治 (1810-1851), whose real name was Nagaoka Chūjirō 長岡忠次郎. Says "After his death, legends began to build around this 'noble yakuza' and he became more of a local hero. At the place of his execution, a Jizō statue was errected to pacify his soul. When people offered incense there, their own illness of palsy would heal (since Chūji also suffered from palsy). Or they would win in gambling (like Chūji). Songs were written about Chūji and Mount Akagi and movies were cast with the popular hero." <end quote>
Doroashi Jizō 泥足地蔵
Muddy-Feet Jizō. In the Heian-era collection of setsuwa 説話 (narratives) called the Hōbutsushū 宝物集, an old woman devotee prayed to her small Jizō statue for a successful rice crop. When she awoke the next morning and walked to her rice field, she found it perfectly cultivated and noticed small footprints going back and forth. She dashed home, and as expected, she found mud on the feet of her tiny Jizō statue.
There are many such tales of Jizō to give them some respite from their toils (a type of ). In one story, this time from the (a Heian-Era collection of miraculous stories about Jizō), a sick peasant who is unable to work in the fields is assisted by Jizō. Writes Buddhist scholar (1876-1930): “A peasant in Izumo, who had always had a firm belief in Jizō, had made a small image of the Bodhisattva. He had placed it in a little shrine on a board in his room, and worshipped it daily. One day a severe illness prevented him from obeying the order of the lord of his district to cultivate the lord's rice fields. According to custom, peasants had to do so gratuitously. Thus all the peasants of the village went out on the day fixed by their lord to work in his service, but the poor man could not go and in despair again and again repeated Jizō's invocation Namu Jizō Dai Bosatsu in his lonely house, his beloved wife just having died from the same disease. On the lord's fields, however, a young Buddhist monk worked in his place and fulfilled his task so well, that the lord gave him a wine cup, which he [the young priest] respectfully raised above his head and disappeared. The lord understood that this priest was a divine person and sent a messenger to the peasant's house, in order to reward him. The astonished man, convinced that this was Jizō's work, opened the shrine and saw the wine cup upon Jizō's head and mud sticking to the statue's feet. Apparently the image itself had been his substitute on the field!” <end de Visser quote>
Another story, which appeared in the 1332 publication Genkō Shakusho, involved a Jizō image at Mt. Kōya (Kōya-san, the present-day headquarters of Japan's Shingon sect of ). In those days, the governor of Shimotsuma was making a pilgrimage to the Jizō Hall (chapel) at Kōya-san, but a torrential river blocked his path. Suddenly a boy priest appeared in a boat and rowed the governor across. When the governor arrived at the Jizō Hall, he asked the head monk about the boy, but the monk had no idea. The governor then visited the chapel and was saying prayers to Jizō when he discovered tiny muddy footprints on the floor, which convinced him that Jizō had helped with the river crossing."
Farmers & Peasants Jizō
There are many forms of Jizō in Japan dedicated to the concerns of poor farmers and peasant women. In most cases, these are forms of the , or Substitue Jizō, one who substitutes for our suffering, one who vicariously receives our hardship, injuries, and wounds.
Hadaka Jizō 裸地蔵
Nude Jizō, Denkōji Temple 伝香寺, Nara.
Kamakura Era, 1228
Possibly carved by
Nude Jizō, Stone
Nanboku period (1336-1392).
Kokuan Enkōji Temple 国安円光
Inamichō 稲美町, Hyōgo Pref.
Approx. 1.2 meters in height.
The Hadaka Jizō wood statue at Denkōji Temple 伝香寺 in Nara is generally not open to public viewing, but each year on July 23/24 (Jizō’s memorial day), the statue is dressed anew and the prior-year clothing is torn into small pieces and presented as talismans to believers. According to temple legend, the statue was commissioned by a nun and is adorned with a beautiful necklace. During the , local kindergarten children come here to pray.
Writes Zen teacher and practicing pediatrician : “Two nude statues of Jizō are in the city of Nara, one now found at Shinyakushi-ji Temple and another at Denkōji Temple. Both of these have genitalia that are neither clearly feminine nor masculine. The Shinyakushi Jizō has a simple lump groin and the Denkōji Jizō has only a line carved in a corkscrew shape. There is speculation that these are representations of the ‘sheathed’ or ‘retractable’ penis, one of the distinguishing marks of a Buddha. The ambiguous genitalia of these Jizō statues also may relect the dual male and female origin and attributes of Jizō.” <end quote>
The Hadaka Jizō wood statue at Enmeiji Temple 延命寺 in Kamakura is open to public viewing, but it is nearly always dressed in robes and shown standing atop a game board. According to temple records, the wife of regent Hōjō Tokiyori 北条時頼 (1227-1263) built this temple in honor of Jizō and commissioned the carving of a naked statue of Jizō depicted with female pudenda. This statue is connected to a very curious old story in which Tokiyori and his wife were playing a board game called Sugoroku 双六. They had agreed that the loser would disrobe entirely. The consort lost. Filled with shame at her predicament, she prayed to Jizō to save her. To her amazement, a naked statue of Jizō appeared on the game board in her stead. Thus this statue is popularly known as the . <Source: Shimpen Kamakura Shi, 1684, Ch. VII, p. 16.> The statue on display at Enmeiji is attributed to famed sculptor 運慶, but died in 1223 so this attribution must be considered false. Enmeiji is one of 24 sites on the .
For more details on the Nude Jizo, please see scholar Hank Glassman’s essay "The Nude Jizō at Denkōji: Notes on Women's Salvation in Kamakura Buddhism." It appears, along with 22 other essays by numerous other scholars, in . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Illustrations, charts, maps. ISBN 978-1-929280-15-5. Edited by Barbara Ruch.
Hanakake Jizō 鼻欠け地蔵 or 鼻欠地蔵
The curious name stems from various legends. Says : At Sasaurawan Bay 楽々浦湾 is a small sanctuary for the Noseless Jizō. The statue was reportedly discovered by fishermen in the sea. As a thank you for saving him, this Jizō produced rice grains out of his nose. One greedy man in the neighborhood cut off the nose to have all the rice for himself. But afterwards the nose stopped pouring out rice grains and the statue appeared without a nose. During the annual July festival at Sasaurawan Bay, the local people pound mochi (rice cakes). Elsewhere in Japan, the residents of Yoshigawa 良川 tell a story about a man who walked in the forest alone at night in the area of Tango (Tottori) and saw a fox pulling a Jizō statue behind him. When he checked the area later, the statue of Jizō had lost its nose.
Harahoge Jizō はらほげ地蔵
At the Gokurakuji Kiridoshi Pass 極楽寺坂切通し in Kamakura, there are of Jizō who keep guard against traffic accidents in the vicinity. The six are known as the Higiri Jizō, or "Time-Limiting Jizō." Photo courtesyHigiri Jizō 日限地蔵
Jizō descends into underworld to help those in need. Modern comic book by Daido Publications, Tokyo.
“Based on temple legends, each time the Black Jizō statue at Kakuonji was repainted to restore its original beauty, it turned black again very soon. Locals also believe the Black Jizō grants prayers for, among other things, safe birth, healthy children, recovery from illness, protection from misfortune, and happiness. A large number of small Jizō statues are positioned on both sides of the Black Jizō and are called Sentai Jizō 千体地蔵 (lit. One Thousand Jizō). When local people borrow one of these "One Thousand Jizō" to venerate at home and their prayers are answered, they paint the statue anew or have a new one made, and then return it here. It is said that if you have deep faith in Kuro Jizō, you will be able to find among the thousand statues one that resembles a person you miss and desire to see again.” <end quote>
Hōroku Jizō ほうろく地蔵
Earthenware Jizō. Devotees offer earthenware plates to images of this Jizō when they suffer from headaches or other head ailments. They write their prayers on the earthenware, and present the plates to Jizō, or place it atop the statue's head. One well-known Hōroku Jizō is located at Daienji Temple 大円寺 (Tokyo). Photo: Hōroku Jizō at Daienji Temple, courtesy .
The term Hōroku 法烙 refers to flat plates used in temples. : “During the ancestor festival O-Bon in August temples provide hōroku that you can place on the graves and make a little fire in them to welcome the ancestors.”
Hōroku Jizō at Daienji Temple. Surrounded by Earthenware. Photo courtesy .
Jizō Bosatsu. Wood.
H = 156.3 cm. Late Heian Period.
Photo: Byōdōin Temple 平等院 (Kyoto).
Scanned from magazine 古寺を巡る, #13,
page 33. Published by Shogakukan 2007.
Another similar story appeared in the Uji Shūi Monogatari 宇治拾遺物語 (a document from the early 13th century). Writes scholar : “This work tells a story about the Buddhist priest Ganō 賀能, who one day took shelter from the rain in a Jizō chapel in in Yokogawa no Hannya-dani on Hieizan 比叡山 (near Kyoto). As the roof of the chapel was dilapidated and the rain dripped upon the Jizō image, he pitied it and covered it with his own hat. After death he fell into hell, because he had committed many evil deeds, and was thrown into an iron caldron, in which his body was burned. While he was thus suffering immensely, a priest, the Jizō of Yokogawa, appeared and pulled him out of the kettle, scalding his own forehead, foot and shoulder. Then Ganō revived and when he visited the chapel he saw that the corresponding parts of the Jizō image were burned.”
Jizō Bon 地蔵盆 and Jizō Festival 地蔵祭
The 24th day of each month is considered Jizō's ENNICHI 縁日. Ennichi literally means "related day." This is translated as sacred day or holy day; it is a monthly memorial day with special significance to a particular or . Saying prayers to the deity on this day is believed to bring greater merits and better results than on regular days. The Heian-era document Konjaku Monogatari 今昔物語 gives Jizō's Ennichi as the 24th day of each month.
Even today, at numerous locations throughout Japan, the annual Jizō Bon 地蔵盆 ceremony is held nationwide on August 24. Traditionally known as the Confession of Jizō Ceremony (Jizō Bon) in which people confess the faults they committed during the year in the hopes of erasing bad karma, and to pray that Jizō will grant them longevity and protect their children. Today it is often combined with a children's festival (Jizō-sai 地蔵祭) in which children gather into groups and rotate a lengthy rosary (juzu-kuri 数珠繰り) made of large beads. In some localities, children believe that tapping their forehead against the beads will bring them luck. In many areas, children are allowed to paint the faces of the local Jizō statues (Keshō Jizō 化粧地蔵, lit. Jizō with Makeup) or to wash the statues and dress them in new red bibs, hats, and robes. Red lanterns are hung at Jizō sites with the inscription "Hail to Jizō Bosatsu," and children eat red-colored festival food. Adds site contributor : "Today it is customary to have the Jizō-bon on both August 23 and 24 to coincide with the Jizō-sai (Jizō fairs), but a growing number of communities have recently changed the dates to the nearest Saturday and Sunday.”
“During Jizō Bon, Jizō statues are washed and decorated with red bibs and red hats. We serve meals to thank them for protecting children. Jizō-bon is traditionally held for two days (August 23- 24). Everyone gathers in a community hall to prepare for it. I would get to wear my yukata (summer kimono). Kids receive a lantern with their name on and also halloween-style snack packs. There are games and entertainment and “bon-odori” dancing. Bon-odori is a group dance. Everyone does the same dance, moving in a circle around a float where taiko (japanese drum) is played. We don’t take any formal lessons but everybody knows the dance. You learn by watching the person in front of you. I like this type of group dancing. Everybody moves the same way and goes around and around and around.”
Notes & Resources on Jizō Ceremony and Jizō Festivals:
Kinomoto Jizō. Kinomoto Jizō-in Temple, Nagahama Town, Shiga.
Koyasu Jizō 子安地蔵
Another notable example is Koyasuzan Obitoke-dera 子安山帯解寺 (Temple for Loosening the Girdle, i.e. granting easy birth) in Nara. It houses a Kamakura-era statue of Koyasu Jizō, considered the oldest extant Koyasu Jizō image in Japan. This temple was built in 851 by Fujiwara no Akiko 藤原彰子, the consort of Emperor Montoku 文徳天皇, to honor Jizō for helping her survive a long and difficult pregnancy. The child later became Japan's first boy emperor <Source >
It is quite logical that Jizō was associated early on with women, pregnancy, fertility, and children -- for Jizō can be translated literally as “Womb of the Earth” (JI 地 = earth, ZŌ 蔵 = womb). Along with (Goddess of Mercy), Jizō is considered a savior par-excellance for women and children, and numerous forms of Jizō are thus venerated by women praying for children, easy delivery, help with child rearing, and other female concerns. For more details on these associations, -- which includes a description of the Hara-Obi Jizō 腹帯地蔵 (Belly Girdle Jizō).
Additionally, Jizō incorporates many of the functions of Koyasu-sama (aka Koyasu-gami), the Shintō goddess of pregnancy, safe childbirth, and the healthy growth and development of children. Shintō shrines dedicated to Koyasu-sama still exist in modern times. These shrines are known as 浅間神社 (also pronounced Sengen). More than 1,000 exist across Japan, with the head shrines standing at the foot and the summit of Mount Fuji itself. These sanctuaries are dedicated to Koyasu’s namesake, the mythical princess Konohana Sakuya Hime (木花之佐久夜毘売), the Shintō deity of Mount Fuji, of cherry trees in bloom, and the patron of safe delivery. In Shintō mythology, Konohana (lit = tree flower) is the daughter of Ōyamatsumi (the earthly kami of mountains). She was married to Ninigi 邇邇芸尊 (heavenly grandchild of ), became pregnant in a single night, and gave birth to three children while her home was engulfed in fire -- thus her role as the Shintō kami who grants safe childbirth. In some accounts she died in the fire, and thus she is likened to the short-lived beauty of the cherry blossom. <Source: and ; both from the Kokugakuin University Shintō Encyclopedia >
Despite the survival of Shintō’s Koyasu-sama into modern times, she has been largely supplanted by her Buddhist equivalents, known as Koyasu Jizō, , and Koyasu (see for even more deities).
Kubifuri Jizō 首振地蔵
Turn-My-Head Jizō. A statue of this Jizō is located just outside the entrance gate to Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 in Kyoto. Devotees turn the head of this Jizō image when asking Jizō for a favor. The practice began sometime in the Edo period, and is probably a variation of the and the (itself a variant of the practice).
Kubifuri Jizō at Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto)
Turn the head while asking Jizō for assistance.
Photos taken at different times, hence the different-colored hats.
Kubikire Jizō 首切れ地蔵
Jizō with Head Cut Off. This Jizō is one of many different forms of the (one who vicariously receives our injuries and wounds). The Kubikire Jizō appears in the 1698 document , which tells us that monk Junrei was saved by this Jizō when he was attacked at night by robbers. Jizō served as his substitute, offering his head instead of Junrei’s. When the monk awoke in the morning, he discovered a bloodstained image of Jizō (at Anryu-machi, Settsu province) with its head laying on the ground. The old province of Settsu is today part of eastern Hyōgo Prefecture and northern Osaka Prefecture.
Michibiki Jizō in Kamakura
In Kamakura city, there is a structure close to both Gokurakuji Temple and Sakurabashi Bridge that houses a Jizō statue named Michibiki Jizō, translated as "Guiding Jizō." This form of Jizō protects children from impediments to their growth and prevents mishaps within his field of vision.
Migawari Jizō 身代り地蔵
Substitute Jizō, one who substitutes for our suffering, one who vicariously receives our injuries and wounds. There are numerous versions and stories of the Substitute Jizō. In one of many legends, this emanation of Jizō once saved a Japanese princess, who was attacked by a villain, by putting himself in front of the attacker’s sword. For a time, it is said, the statue had a scar across its face where the villain’s sword had fallen. This type of Jizō is known as the Substitute Jizō (Migawari Jizō 身代り地蔵), one who substitutes himself for our suffering.
Another well-known substitute is Tachiyama Jizō 立山地蔵, who takes the place of a poor peasant woman so she can rest once a month (see for more examples involving agricultural concerns). Another interesting example comes from the Garan Kaiki Ki 伽藍開基記 (Records of the Founding of Buddhist Temples), written in 1689. It states that Emperor Shōtoku 称徳天皇 (718 - 770) ordered the construction of a temple dedicated to Jizō on sacred Mt. Ōyama 大山 (present day Tottori Prefecture) after hearing a miracle story about a Jizō image in the possession of a Jizō devotee named Toshikata, who lived at the foot of Ōyama mountain. Writes : “One day, when Toshikata came home after having shot a stag in the mountains, and was about to worship Jizō, he was much frightened by seeing his arrow sticking in the image and blood flowing out of the wound. He understood that Jizō in his great compassion for all living beings had given his own body as a substitute for the stag and had been wounded in its place. This caused him to shave his head and to become a monk; he had his house pulled down and a Jizō Hall built on the spot. When the Emperor heard this story, the Emperor ordered the construction of a temple in the same spot in order to dedicate this to the miraculous image.” <end quote>
The temple is known at Daisenji 大山寺, but records about its origin are conflicting. The Genkō Shakusho (written before 1346) says the famous monk Ennin 円仁 (794-864; posthumous title Jikaku Daishi 慈覚大師) founded the temple. Other well-known examples of the Substitute Jizō include 火焚地蔵 (Fire-Kindling Jizō or Black Jizō), (Jizō With Burnt Cheeks), and (Battlefield Jizō)
Miso Jizō みそ地蔵 (Bean Paste Jizō)
At Saizōji Temple (in Higashiyama, Hiroshima), people bring a flat pack of miso (bean paste), put it on the head of a seated Jizō statue, say a prayer, and then put the miso pack on their own head in the hopes their prayers will be answered (e.g., prayers to cure illness, to pass the school exams, to gain intellegence). In this area of Hiroshima, the Miso Jizō is even more popular than , a courtier in the Heian period who was deified after death -- he is considered a and venerated as the patron of scholarship, learning, and calligraphy at throughout Japan. Miso means bean paste. It is also short for "nōmiso," the latter term meaning "brain." Thus, Miso Jizō is a play on sounds.
Misoname Jizō みそなめ地蔵 (Miso Licking Jizō)
In other locations, people worship the so-called Misoname Jizō or "Miso-Licking Jizō." According to folklore, people who are granted their wishes are supposed to visit "Miso Licking" temples and smear miso around the mouth of the Jizō statue. In other areas, people spread miso on Jizō statues to cure sickness, tooth aches, and eye diseases. The basic belief is to put miso on the statue in the same location as your ailment -- on Jizō's teeth if you have a tooth ache, on Jizō's eye if you have an eye disease, etc. This symbolism is similar to another manifestation of Jizō called the (Substitution Jizō). This latter Jizō “substitutes” himself for the suffering of the people, curing them by taking on their pain. For much more on Miso Jizō, the Miso Licking Jizō, and other unique Japanese manifestations of this beloved deity, There is another version of Jizō called the Shioname Jizō 塩なめ地蔵 (Salt-licking Jizō) enshrined at Kōsokuji Temple 光触寺 (Juniso) in Kamakura, which is one of the temples on the .
Mizuko Jizō in graveyard,
Raikōji Temple, Kamakura.
Late 20th century, stone.
Jizō, 19th century
Victoria & Albert Museum
At Hase Dera, Kamakura.
Stone, late 20th century.
The most common form of Jizō made in Japan today is the Mizuko Jizō, who is often portrayed as a monk with an infant in his arms and another child or two at his feet, clutching the skirt of his robe. [Editor’s Note: shares same iconography] The Mizuko Jizō is the central figure in a popular but somewhat controversial ceremony called the Mizuko Kuyō 水子供養.
The words Ku-yō are composed of two Chinese characters with the literal meaning "to offer" and "to nourish". The underlying meaning is to offer what is needed to nourish life energy after it is no longer perceptible in the form of a human or occupying a body we can touch. In actual use Kuyō refers to a memorial service and Mizuko Kuyō to a memorial service for infants who have died either before birth or within the first few years of life. An image of the Mizuko Jizō usually is the central figure on the altar at such a ceremony. Grieving parents may buy a small statue of Mizuko Jizō to place on the family altar or in a cemetery as a memorial for their child.
The two Chinese characters in the word mizu-ko are literally translated "water" and "baby". It is a description of the unborn beings who float in a watery world awaiting birth. The Japanese perceived that all life is originated from the sea long before evolutionary theory proposed this. Their island home and all its inhabitants float in the ocean, which is the source of much of their nutrition. In actual use, the term "mizuko" includes not only fetuses and the newly born, but also infants up to one or two years of age whose hold on life in the human realm is still tenuous.
In Japan young children are regarded as "other worldly" and not fully anchored in human life. Fetuses are still referred to as kami-no-ko or "child of the gods" and also as "Buddha". Before the twentieth century, the probability that a child would survive to age five or seven was often less than 50 percent. Only after that age were they "counted" in a census and could they be "counted upon" to participate in the adult world. Children were thought of as mysterious beings in a liminal world between the realm of humans and gods. Because of this the gods could speak through them. For centuries prepubescent children in Japan have been chosen as chigo 稚児, or "divine children", who do divination and function as oracles. Even today children below school age still are allowed a somewhat heavenly existence, indulged and protected without many expectations or pressures. They often sleep in bed with their parents and younger siblings until age seven. School entry and displacement from the parental bed can come as a rude shock. <end quote by > NOTE.
Mizuko Jizō at Hase Dera in Kamakura
Mizuko Jizō Book
Writes : “People in America and Europe have only recently become acquainted with Jizō Bodhisattva, but mistaken beliefs among Westerners about Jizō already exist. The Mizuko Jizō, although currently popular, revered, and omnipresent in Japan, is not an ancient Jizō. Nor is it the only form of Jizō. The term "mizuko" does not appear in Buddhist or scriptures. The mizuko kuyō is not an ancient rite nor was it originally a Buddhist ceremony. Both the Mizuko Jizō and the mizuko ceremony arose in Japan in the 1960s in response to a human need, to relieve the suffering emerging from the experience of a large number of women who had undergone abortions after World War II.” <end quote from Chozen Roshi>
Mizuko Jizō Anticedents (Jizō Legend in Japan)
The cult of Mizuko Jizō in Japan emerged only recently (1960s), but it no doubt draws its inspiration from much earlier tales of Jizō’s salvific powers. Based on legends attributed to the Jodō Sect (Pure Land Sects devoted to ) around the 14th or 15th century, children who die prematurely are sent to the underworld to undergo judgment. Even though they died before hearing the teachings of the Buddha, or before they could accumulate good or bad karma, they must still undergo judgment as do all people. Even the innocent souls of unborn fetuses are sent to the underworld, for folk wisdom says they are guilty of causing great sorrow to their parents. They are sent to , the river of souls in purgatory, where they pray for Buddha’s compassion by building small stone towers, piling stone upon stone. But underworld demons, answering to the command of the old hag , soon arrive and scatter their stones and beat them with iron clubs. But, no need to worry, for Jizō comes to the rescue. In one version of the story, Jizō hides the children in the sleeves of his robe. This traditional Japanese story has been adapted to modern needs, and today, children who die prematurely in Japan are called “mizuko,” or water children, and the saddened parents pray to . This form of Jizō is unique to Japan, and did not appear until after the end of World War II. See above for details.
From comic book by
Daido Publications, Tokyo
From comic book by
Daido Publications, Tokyo
Mizuko, Stones, and Jizō
Even today, you will invariably find little heaps of stones and pebbles on or around Jizō statues, as many bereaved parents believe that a stone offered in faith will shorten the time their dead child suffers in the underworld and help their child in performing his/her penance in the netherworld. (See the preceding paragraph for one origin of this tradition.) You will also notice that Jizō statues are often wearing tiny garments. Since Jizō is the guardian of dead children, sorrowing parents bring the little garments of their lost ones and dress the Jizō statue in hopes Jizō will especially protect their child during . A little hat or bib (often ) or toy is often seen as well, the gift of a rejoicing parent whose child has been cured of dangerous sickness thanks to Jizō’s intervention, or a gift to help the deceased child in the afterlife.
Jizo with Prayer Stone atop head
Modern Ceramic Statue
Jizo statues decked in garments and toys.
Hase Dera in Kamakura, Japan
Omokaru Jizo at Gokurakuji Temple
2nd Site of Shikoku Pilgrimage
Also called: Jizo to hold in your arms
Omokaru Jizō おもかる地蔵尊
Below text courtesy .
Omokaru-ishi literally means “heavy or light stones.” There are numerous variations for these types of stones and statues. Essentially, you make a wish and try to lift the stone (or statue). If you can carry it (karui = light), your wish will be granted. If you cannot carry it (omoi = heavy), then you have to come back another day and try again. Sometimes a statue of is used instead of a stone. For more details and a list of sites where these stones are located, please see .
Onegai Jizō お願い地蔵
Literally the “wish-giving” or “ask-a-favor” Jizō. At many temples, visitors can buy tiny images of Jizō, which they deposit around the main Jizō statue when praying for Jizō’s help. This is probably an extension of (1,000 Jizō) traditions.
Thousands of Onegai Jizō at Nihonji Daibutsu, Nokogiriyama, Chiba.
Constructed in the 1780s, Nokogiriyama features gigantic statues of
and that are carved into the rock face.
Roku Jizō Intersection, Kamakura
Roku Jizō, Hase Dera, Kamakura
Roku Jizō, Hase Dera, Kamakura
Daiyagawa 大谷川, Nikko City
Tochigi Pref. Photo from
Roku Jizō, Meigetsu-in, Kamakura
Worship of the Six Jizō can be traced back to the 11th century in Japan, but this grouping has no basis in Mahayana scripture or in the writings of Buddhist clergy. Its origin is probably linked to a similar grouping of (one for each of the six realms) that appeared in the early 10th century in Japan’s Tendai 天台 sect. This grouping of originated much earlier in China, and draws its scriptural basis from the Mo-ho-chih-kuan (Jp. Makashikan 摩訶止観), a work (circa 594 AD) by the noted Chinese Tien-tai master Chih-i 智顗 (538 - 597). By the 11th century, Japan’s Shingon sect also began venerating the . The worship of Six Jizō appeared around the same time. The six emanations of Jizō vary among temples and sects. <Sources: of the University of Kansas has done extensive research on the of Daihō-onji Temple 大報恩寺. Also see . Also see Kashara & McCarthy. A History of Japanese Religion. Kosei, 2001, pages 138-140.>
Six Realms (from lowest to highest, from worst to best)
Six Jizō (listed in 仏像図彙, 1690)
Six Jizō, 12th Century. The late-Heian Japanese scripture known as 地蔵菩薩発心因縁十王経 (or Ten Kings Sūtra) deals with Jizō and the Ten Kings of Hell, describing Jizo's role in delivering people from the six worlds of desire and rebirth. It lists the following Six Jizō.
Names in Sutra
Also Known As
Danda Jizō 檀陀地蔵
Skt. Daṇḍa; Yama’s Staff
Left hand holding staff topped with human head, right hand in Jōben-in mudra 成弁印
Hōju Jizō 宝珠地蔵
Precious Jewel Jizō; left hand holding jewel, right hand forming Kanro-in mudra 甘露印
Hōin Jizō 宝印地蔵
Treasure Seal Jizō; left hand holding staff, right hand forming Injo-in mudra 引接印
Jiji Jizō 持地地蔵
Earth Possession Jizō; left hand holding vajra flag, right hand forming 施無畏印 (Fear Not mudra)
Jogaishō Jizō 除蓋障地蔵蔵
Skt. Sarva Nivāraṇa
Eliminates Obstacles Jizō; left hand holding wish-granting jewel, right hand forming 説法印 (Teaching mudra).
Nikkō Jizō 日光地蔵
Sunlight Jizō; left hand holding staff and right hand forming 与願印 (Welcoming mudra)
NOTE: In both the 1690 and 1783 versions of the 仏像図彙, the positions of Yotenga Jizō and Hōkō-ō Jizō are reversed. In the , Yotenga Jizō represents the Deva realm and Hōkō-ō Jizō the human realm.
Six Jizō, 13th Century. The Kakuzenshō 覚禅鈔, a compilation of Buddhist iconographical drawings by Shingon monk Kakuzan 覚禅 (1143-1212), included three different groupings of the Six Jizō.
Daitei Chie Jizō
Daitoku Shōjō Jizō
jewel, sutra box
Six Jizō Listed in the 仏像図彙
Esoteric Jizō Forms (see Kongō 金剛 list above).
Another Grouping of Six Jizō Listed in the 仏像図彙
The traditional Exoteric names, attributes and mentioned in the .)
Roku Jizō (Six Jizō) in Modern Times
Hats for Six Jizō, Popular Children’s Book
Kasa Jizō 笠地蔵 (Hatted Jizō or Jizō with Hat), also known as Hibō Jizō 被帽地蔵) is an extremely popular fairy tale attributed to both Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. Below summary from the On New Year's Eve, a poor old man goes to the village, hoping to sell a piece of cloth his wife wove to make some money for the New Year's holiday. He meets a man who is trying to sell straw hats, and he exchanges the cloth with the man's five hats. On the way back home in the snow, the old man spots six stone statues of Jizō looking cold. The kind old man covers their heads with five straw hats and his own scarf. He returns home with empty hands but his wife is happy for what he has done. During the night of New Year's Eve, the six Jizō reward the couple for the their unselfish generosity. <Site Editor’s Note: This charming story was labeled "ideologically biased" by the Jiyu Shimpo in the 1980s for its implicit criticism of capitalist society. See outside story . Jiyu Shimpo is an organ of Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.>
Found image on Japanese web
YouTube Animation of Kasa Jizō Story (narration in Japanese)
The rubbing of Jizō statues to alleviate ailments may be an extension of Japan’s earlier “rubbing” traditions. At many temples, statues of certain deities appear worn near the head, shoulders, and body joints, as passersby believe that rubbing their hands on these deities will somehow bring benefits. Statues of , the most widely revered of the in Japan, and , the Buddha of Medicine and Healing, are usually well worn, as the faithful rub part of the statue (knees, back, head), then rub the same part of their body, praying for the deity to heal their sickness (e.g., cancer, arthritis, headaches, other ailments). Both are reputed to have the gift of healing. This "rubbing" tradition is also associated with (the god of wealth and farmers, and one of Japan’s ). People rub Daikoku statues in the hope of gaining good luck and fortune (i.e., they believe good luck will rub off on them). Also see .
Sakasa Jizō さかさ地蔵
Literally “Upside Down Jizō.”
Says site contributor . “An upside-down stone statue of Jizō is located in the walls of Koriyama Castle 大和郡山城址 in Yamato Koriyama, Nara prefecture. The stones from the river Mizutanigawa near Kasuga Taisha 春日大社の水谷川 were not enough for the castle’s construction. When the wall was erected, all the available big stones nearby where used for the construction. This Jizō also got into the wall, head down ... they also used stone lanterns and stone grave markers for the wall, which was build on behalf of Toyotomi Hidenaga 豊臣秀長, son of Hideyoshi, in 1585.”
Sentai Jizō 千躰地蔵
1,000 Bodies of Jizō; groupings of hundreds of Jizō statues. To increase their effectiveness, tiny statues of Jizō are sometimes grouped in large numbers around a central Jizō image (as with the at Kakuonji Temple in Kamakura, the at Nihonji Daibutsu, and at 高幡不動尊 temple, wherein a five-story pagoda devoted to Kōbō Daishi features 1,000 Jizō statues.
Says the : “In times of epidemics or disasters, it is customary to paint countless images of Jizō which are then thrown into the sea or a river in a ceremony called Jizō Nagashi (Jizō floating on the waters). This ceremony sometimes also takes place during the periods of the spring and autumn equinoxes. In 1923, for example, after the terrible earthquake that destroyed the city of Tokyo, more than 700,000 images of Jizō were thrown into the Sumida river to attract the attention of Jizō to the spirits of those who had perished in the catastrophe. Prayers can also be sent to him in writing: this applies in particular to TSUNBO JIZŌ 聾地蔵 (lit. = Deaf Jizō) of Komagome 駒込 (Hongo, Tokyo) when one suffers from persistent coughing. The people believe that, since Jizō is deaf, he cannot hear their prayers; it is therefore necessary to send them to him in writing, either by post, or by placing the written paper on the waters of a river or the sea. This Jizō is thought to be a great lover of and a cure is more likely if he is promised a bottle.” <end quote>
Hase Dera, Kamakura, Japan
Sekidome Jizō 咳止地蔵
Cough-Stopping Jizō. A folk Jizō who stops coughing fits. Origin unknown, probably during the Edo period.
Shibarare Jizō 縛られ地蔵, String-Bound Jizō
This form of Jizō is relatively new. The earliest Japanese text to mention Shibarare Jizō (to my knowledge) is the Edo Sunago 江戸砂子, dated 1732, which cites the curious habit of binding a Jizō statue at Rinsenji Temple 林泉寺 (Tokyo) in ropes before beseeching the deity for divine intervention. There are various legends about this form of Jizō. Three are presented below. Although String-Bound Jizō is clearly an Edo-era creation, the deity's origins may have drawn from a much earlier story appearing in the Taiheiki 太平記 (circa 1371 Japanese text), which describes a soldier taking refuge in a Jizō sanctuary after fleeing from a battle. As the enemy drew nearer, Jizō appeared in the form of a priest who was then captured by the enemy in place of the soldier. From that point forward, the Jizō statue in the sanctuary showed markings where it had been bound. For more on this story, see .
Legend One. Rinsenji Temple (Tokyo). Text and photo from Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 9, 2003. The gentle, round face of Jizō, the guardian deity of children, can barely be seen amidst the layers of cord tied around the stone statue of the god at Rinsenji Temple in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, which was erected in 1602. The stone statue called “Shibarare (string-bound) Jizō” is said to have been donated to the temple by its founder, Itō Hanbei 伊藤半兵衛, in memory of his late parents. There are other Shibarare Jizō statues in other locations around Tokyo. However, the statue at Rinsenji appeared in “Zenigata Heiji,” a detective story set in the and written by novelist Kodō Nomura 野村胡堂 (1882-1963). Local residents originally started tying strings around the statue when offering prayers for the recovery of stolen or missing items. When their prayers were answered, people were supposed to remove the string. These days, however, many people visit the temple to offer prayers for various other reasons. “At the end of every year, we hold a ceremony to remove all the strings and burn them. But the statue was already covered with new strings in January,” said the chief priest at the temple, Shin-jin Eda, 40. <end story by Shinobu Miwa for the Yomiuri Shimbun >
Tomoko Takasawa, 55, visits Nanzoin
Temple to tie a rope on Shibarare Jizō
(tied Jizō) and pray for her health.
Rinsenji 林泉寺 (Tokyo)
Very famous statue
Nanzō-in Temple in Katsushika (Tokyo)
A votive tablet (ema 絵馬) of string-bound Jizō.
After purchasing your ema, you write your name
and petition on the back, then hang it within the temple compound. This temple also sells Daruma dolls
bound by a rope.
Gangyō-ji 願行寺 (Tokyo)
Akin to the Taiheiki story
More Legends, Musubi Daruma and Shibarare Jizō. There are other variations, says "There is a special with a rope around the body. You buy it when you make a commitment (for example to give up smoking or drinking) and to BIND you to your promise. The gets a rope to remind you. You can buy such a for a New Year resolution on the Year End Market on December 31 to January 2 at the Nanzō-in Temple in Tokyo. This custom is closely related to the Shibarare Jizō tradition." <see Gabi’s >
Paper-Pasted Daruma, Doi Daruma Temple 土肥達磨寺 in Shizuoka. Says “One of the famous Daruma statues in the compounds is the “Daruma to Cast a Vow” or Gankake Daruma 願掛け達磨. You write your vow on a slip of paper and paste it on the statue. On January first of every year there is a big celebration where all the slips of the past year will be consecrated.” <Photo >
Paper-Pasted Jizō (Kamihari Jizō 紙張地蔵) at Yōshū-in 陽秀院 (Nagoya). The statue is covered with paper prayer slips. Devotees write their prayers on the slips and then paste the slips on Jizō's body. If one's wish is granted, that person then removes the paper letter. <Photos >
Shinpei Jizō San 心平地蔵さん
Says : “The valley where Kenchō-ji Temple 建長寺 is located in Kamakura used to be called "Hell Valley" (Jigokudani 地獄谷). It was a place where the death penalty was enforced and a small temple had been erected to pacify the souls of slain people. This temple was called Shinpei-ji (lit. = land of spiritual peace) and its main deity of worship was a statue of Jizō Bosatsu, now known as the Shinpei Jizō.” <end quote by Gabi. > Editor’s Note. The Shinpei Jizō is also the 9th stop on the in the Kamakura area.
Shōgun Jizō - Modern Handicraft
Atago Gongen (aka Shōgun Jizō)
Modern Handicraft Statue
Above & Below
Shōgun Jizō & Mt. Atago Deities
Edo Era, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Wood. Height 74 cm.
Jōkōmyōji 浄光明寺 in Kamakura. Early Naboku Era (1336-1392).
Staff is surmounted by arrow.
There are numerous stories about Jizō as a battlefield protector. Jōkōmyōji Temple 浄光明寺 in Kamakura houses a statue of Jizō called the 矢拾い地蔵, literally Arrow-Gathering Jizō. According to legend, Yahiroi Jizō appeared as a child-monk on the battlefield to save Ashikaga Tadayoshi 足利直義 (1306-52), the younger brother of Ashikaga Takauji, by gathering arrows after Tadayoshi had run out of weapons. Jōkōmyōji Temple is #16 and #17 on the .
Within the precints of Tenonji Temple 天恩寺 in Okazaki City (Aichi Prefecture) is a large cedar tree named Ieyasu-ko Mikaeri-no-Sugi (lit. = Cedar Tree Ieyasu Looked Back At). According to legend, Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1542-1616) visited this temple to pray for victory in his campaign to unify Japan. While praying, someone called out his name. As he turned around to address the caller, he saw an assassin hiding behind a huge cedar tree with arrow poised to shoot. Ieyasu narrowly escaped, and as he left the temple for the battlefield, he looked back repeatedly at the tree to show his gratitude, for the voice he had heard was that of Enmei Jizō 延命地蔵 (Life Prolonging Jizō). Enmei Jizō is also one of who protect all beings in the six realms of desire and rebirth. See for details. <Source: >
Says the : “In certain cases, Jizō may also assume a syncretic aspect, and be represented as a warrior when assimilated with Atago 愛宕権現, a Kami considered to be a temporary incarnation of Jizō. This kami (), protector from flame and fire, mainly venerated on Mount Atago in Kyoto Prefecture, has also been identified as being Kaguzuchi-no-Kami or even 須佐之男命 (storm god and brother of the 太陽神アマテラス) and sometimes even as Izanagi 伊邪那岐命 (Japanese creator god). He is represented with the features of a Chinese warrior on horseback, carrying a pigrim’s staff and a cintamani (Jp. = hōjunotama 宝珠の玉 or wish-granting jewel). Popular imagery sometimes also symbolizes him by statuettes of a horse carrying a cintamani on its back. The support animal or messenger of this Atago is the wild boar, the symbol of courage, strength, and perseverance. Many legends relate that warriors in difficulty have been rescued by wild boars or Atago Jizō 愛宕地蔵, which charged at their enemies, putting them to flight.” <end Flammarion quote>.
Writes noted scholar (pp. 98-99) about Shōgun Jizō: “The Genkō Shakusho 元亨釈書 (Buddhist Records from the Genkō Era), dated to 1322, contains the biography of the Hossō priest Enchin 延鎮, who in A.D. 798 at the expense of the general Sakanoue Tamuramaro 坂上田村魔麿 (758 - 811) built the famous Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 on a hill at Kyoto, and thence forward lived in this temple. When the Emperor Kanmu 桓武天皇 (737–806) dispatched Tamuramaro at the head of the imperial troops to Oshu (the ancient province of Mutsu), to suppress the rebellion of Takamaru, before his departure the general visited his friend Enchin and requested the latter to assist him by means of the power of Buddha's doctrine. Enchin promised him to do his utmost, and the general marched against the enemy, filled with confidence in this mighty protection. But chance was against him, and after having been defeated in Suruga province he fled to Oshu, pursued by Takamaru. In a second battle a complete defeat was imminent for lack of arrows, when suddenly a little Buddhist priest and a little boy appeared on the scene and picked up the arrows lying on the battlefield. They gave these to Tamuramaro, who then killed Takamaru, defeated his troops and returned in triumph to his imperial master, whom he offered the rebel's head. Thereupon he went to Kiyomizu-dera and asked Enchin, by which doctrine he had protected him so well. The priest answered: "Among my doctrines (methods) there is one devoted to 勝軍地蔵 (Army-Conquering Jizō) and to Shōteki 勝敵毘沙門 (Enemy-Conquering Vaiśravaṇa). I made images of both these deities and offered and prayed to them." Now the general understood who had been the little priest and the boy who had picked up the arrows. He entered the temple hall and looked at the images: arrows and swords had apparently wounded them, and their feet were covered with mud! Tamuramaro was struck with wonder and reported the matter to His Majesty, who was also deeply impressed by this miracle.”
continues: “This story formed the base of ’s cult, which soon enjoyed the high favour of the warriors of warlike Japan. It was a secret doctrine, as we learn from the document Kokkyōshū 谷響集 (Collection of Echoes of the Valley, written by Buddhist monk Unshō 運敞 in 1689), which at the question, from which sutra and his secret doctrine were derived, answers that his name is not found in the sutras, but that he is the ’Great Manifestation of Atago’ (Atago Dai 愛宕大権現), very much adored by great men of remote antiquity like 役小角 (father of ; late 7th century) and Unpen Shōnin 雲遍上人 (founder of the ; early 8th century). Enchin was a priest of the , the doctrine of which was based upon the Yui-shiki-ron 唯識論, i.e. the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi-śāstra, a work of Vasubandhu (Jp. Seshin 世親), translated in 650 - 669 AD by the famous pilgrim Huen Tsang. Thus this sect is a branch of the Yoga school, and it is clear why Kiyomizu-dera belongs to both the Hossō and the Shingon sects. The cult of , which started from this temple, was accordingly based upon a mystic doctrine of the Yoga school [Yogācāra 瑜伽行派 school from India], which agrees well with Unshō's statement about its being a ’secret doctrine.’ A similar story, evidently borrowed from this passage of the Genkō Shakusho, was told about the Jizō of Jun-in, a shrine in the compound of Jōkōmyōji Temple 浄光明寺 (Temple of the Pure Light) in Kamakura. The standing image of 矢拾い地蔵 (Jizō who picked up arrows), was said to have been the mamori honzon 守り本尊 or tutelary deity of Ashikaga Tadayoshi 足利直義 (1306-1352), the younger brother of Shōgun Ashikaga Takauji 足利尊氏 (1305-1358), and in the shape of a little priest to have picked up arrows on the battlefield and to have given them to Tadayoshi, when the latter was about to be defeated for lack of arrows. When after the battle Tadayoshi saw his tutelary image, it had an arrow in its band as a second khakkhara (see pohoto at right). ’Even at the present day,’ says the author of the 1685 document Shinpen Kamakura Shi 新編鎌倉志 (Newly Edited Guide to Kamakura), who relates this story, ’the staff of this Jizō is the shaft of an arrow.’"
Independent scholar Patricia Yamada, a longtime resident of Kyoto, disagrees with De Visser. She convincingly argues that the above Kiyomizu legend from the 14th-century Genkō Shakusho 元亨釈書 is apocryphal. The Shōgun Jizō cult did not originate in the Heian period, she says, and later writings that cited the 1322 Genkō Shakusho should be considered wrong. Writes Yamada: "[The legend that] Shōgun Jizō originated in Kyoto in the early Heian period is based on the tale of Tamuramaro being hemmed-in by foes and rescued by the appearance and aid of a Shōgun Jizō and a Shōteki 勝敵 Bishamonten picking up spent arrows, recorded in the 1322 Genkō shakusho 元亨釈書 Enchin-den 延鎮伝 section. A much earlier account of the history of Kiyomizu-dera [Fusō ryakki 扶桑略記], written in the latter half of the Heian period by the courtier Fujiwara no Akihira 藤原明衡, makes no mention of a Tamuramaro-Shōgun Jizō tale. Moreover, the Kiyomizu-dera Konryū-ki 清水寺建立記 (Annals of the Construction of Kiyomizu Temple), compiled in 1207, states only that a Jizō and Bishamonten attended the Kiyomizu Kannon. Nor does the late 1200s story collection, Konjaku Monogatari 今昔物語 provide a tale of a Shōgun Jizō, although there is one about a priestly, yatori (arrow-collecting) Jizō........Nor is Shōgun Jizō found in the 1318 history Keiran Shūyō-shū 渓嵐拾葉集 (Collection of Leaves Gathered in a Stormy Valley).........The two-roll Kiyomizu-dera Engi 清水寺縁起, compiled in 1517, and later writings wrongly relied on the 1322 Genkō Shakusho story that the Kiyomizu Shōgun Jizō cult originated in the Heian period.." <end quote, pp. 29-30> See Yamada’s story Japanese Religions, Vol. 34, No. 1, Jan. 2009.
Tawashi Jizō 束子地蔵
Kitchen-Brush Jizō. People suffering from rheumatism use kitchen brushes to wash the part of the Jizō statue corresponding to that part of their body suffering from rheumatism. This is just one of many variations of the .
Edible Togenuki Jizō
sold at Kōganji Temple (Tokyo)
Writes : “Accounts of noteworthy places in the city of Edo, such as the 1735 Zoku Edo Sunago Onko Meisekishi, reported a new ’Hayari Jizō’ (lit. = Jizō that's all the rage) at the Sōtō 曹洞 Zen temple known as Kōganji 高岩寺 (in present-day Tokyo), claiming ’those gravely ill or those who have difficult-to-cure ailments, if they get a hold of a talisman of this Jizō statue, will definitely find relief.’"
Uba Jizō 姥地蔵
Old Woman Jizō. Another curious form of Jizō in modern Japan, again cataloged by Gabi Greve, is the so-called Uba Jizō 姥地蔵. For more, see Gabi’s .
Wheel Jizō (variant of Shintō’s traditions)
There is a Japanese Buddhist variant of the Shintō tradition that involves the beloved Jizō Bosatsu. It is called the Jizō-guruma 地蔵車. This translates as Jizō Wheel (which includes the Afterlife Wheel or Goshō Guruma 後生車, and the Present Life Wheel or Bosatsu Guruma 菩提車). Found in front of many temples. When you say your wish while turning the wheel downward, a wish for the afterlife will be granted. When you turn the wheel upward, a wish for your present life will be granted. For details, please see .
Jizō Wheel at Dazaifu Temple. Courtesy of
Women and Pregnancy
There are many forms of Jizō dedicated to the concerns of women. This is not surprising, as the name Jizō can be translated as "Womb of the Earth” and thus, in popular culture, Jizō became closely associated with granting easy delivery and protecting women. These roles were originally attributed to , another powerful protector of women, children, and easy childbirth. Jizō and Kannon share many overlapping functions -- both protect the (the , the ), both are (the , the ), and both protect the souls of aborted children (the , the ). In some scriptures, they even share the same 縁日 (Holy Day).
Koyasu Jizō 子安地蔵菩薩
Central icon of worship at Koyasuzan Obitoke-dera 子安山帯解寺
(Temple for Loosening the Girdle)
in Nara. Wood, Kamakura Era.
H = 182.6 cm. The temple claims it
was carved by
弘法大師 (774 - 835 AD).
For more on Koyasu Jizō, jump
to the .