I realized I had to write a new post so that we could all ignore linguistic vexations. I decided to do another story about a deity called Jizō (地蔵), because he never fails to calm me down and make me smile. Jizō is the protector of children, pregnant women, firemen, travellers and pilgrims. See why I like him? One of my favourite Jizō temples is Jyoumyoin (浄名院) in Uenosakuragi (上野桜木). You probably won't find information about this temple in any non-Japanese guidebook, and I cannot imagine that too many tourists would find it interesting, yet I can spend hours amongst its graves. I love the tranquillity of Japanese cemeteries and the companionship of the silent stones. Every single stone, every single face, is different.
|As per usual, click to see bigger versions.|
The statues at this temple are quite old, and for some reason many heads have fallen off. They're gently placed on top of the statues.
Jizō has many forms in Japan, including Mizuko Jizō (水子地蔵) or Water-Child Jizō. He's the guardian of children who die prematurely, through abortion or any other means. Their souls go to a hellish realm, a riverbed known as Sai-no-Kawara (賽の河原), which is similar to the river Styx in Greek mythology. Since these children haven't had a chance to build up good karma, they are forced to build small stone towers, pebble upon pebble, in the hope of reaching salvation, but demons scatter their stones and beat them with clubs. Fortunately Jizō comes to the rescue, hiding the children in the sleeves of his robe. That is why stones are often placed at Jizō statues: parents believe that it will help their child to do penance.
You can also see toys at Jizō statues: the gifts of a parent whose child has been cured of an illness thanks to Jizō's intervention, or a gift to help the deceased child in the afterlife. A little hat or bib (often red, because red drives out demons) is often displayed as well, for the same reason.
Incidentally, if you want to buy a grave at this temple, it will cost you from ¥500 000 for 0,25 square meters to ¥1,4 million for 0,70 square meters. You also have to pay an annual maintenance fee of ¥20 000. It's expensive to live in Tokyo; it's expensive to die here.
I wrote another post about Jizō statues at Hase-dera in Kamakura here. Hase-dera has cuteness; Jyoumyoin has atmosphere.
|I identify with this one. He's a bit out of step.|
|Jizō often carries a pilgrim's staff with six rings that jingle to warn animals of his approach and prevent mutual harm.|
|Main Jizō statue at the temple|