Friday, November 21, 2008


(This type of Buddha is called 'ojizousama' or 'jizo'. He takes care of lost babies in a special heaven. Chris and Deb wondered if the 'tear soup' I sent them was a Japanese custom - it's not, but this is. Grieving parents commission a Jizo statue to stand in a temple or a cemetary, where they are offered incense and flowers.)

On Wednesday we went to Hachimenzan, the mountain near my city. I've been there many times before, but it's been a long time since I went to the summit. The drive up is steep and curvy, and while I've been as far as the lake several times recently, this was the first time I went further since I walked around the summit about 10 years ago!

We were rewarded with snow. It was fluttering around up there, and had settled on the trees and the stumps and tables at this picnic spot.

I also went to see the sleeping buddha again after about 10 years! And for the first time, explored the hill behind, which is dotted with buddhas and jizos, including several adorable little treasures.

Close-up of the Buddha's companions grieving at his passing. Of course, in reality he was entering Nirvana, not something to be upset about. Their grief thus displays their own unenlightened state.

The scene on the way to the sleeping Buddha. A bridge leading to an island. The bridge is the stone where the red writing is. I'm reminded of the 'Chinese garden' in King Edward Park, Hawera, only this is so much better!

Jizos in graduating sizes. Look very carefully to the left for a very tiny one.

Wednesday evening we went to the 'San sui kai' with Kanji. That's the monthly beer-drinking party. One hectic hour of eating and drinking as fast as you can!

Some more wonderful statuary from the mountain:

This Jizo is holding the baby. Very much like a catholic Madonna and child. It could also be Kannon, another bodhisattva who is often depicted holding a baby. However, Kannon usually looks female, and I think this guy looks like a bloke, so it's probably Jizo.

Many of the Jizos wear bibs. This statue is actually wearing one too, only it's so old and mouldy that it's stiff as stone.

Then half way down to the peace park, we found this adorable little baby on a rock. I couldn't resist it, I took it home.


Anonymous said...

Lovely pictures.
I love Jizo, I find it really comforting somehow that they are all over the neighbourhood and that they are so respected, love too that the neighbourhood women knit the little hats and make the aprons etc.

Rachel said...

I am deeply curious about those old ladies. Who did they lose, so long ago? I saw a woman a few weeks ago tending to a Jizo, who must have been about ninety. It must be sixty or seventy years since she lost someone, and she still remembers that little baby.

There is a lovely story by Mary Yukari Waters in her book of short stories, 'The Laws of Evening' about an old lady, lost children and some Jizos.

Anonymous said...

I am sure with many they are remembering babies lost to miscarriages, or infants in the early years when children weren't always expected to live until 5.
Some women I know though that make the hats and aprons and stuff say they do it just as part of the community, for the Jizo that watches over and protects all children.
I imagine back in the day there was no time/place for grieving losses other than offerings to the Jizo, what do you think?

Rachel said...

I think you're right. It was such a common thing to lose a baby or young child, you couldn't afford to wallow in grief. But I don't believe that their greater exposure to that grief or the practicality they were forced to adopt meant that they felt it any less than we would.