The amiable army

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Jul 21 2013

Tags: ,

Category: Asia, Japan

1 Comment

Focal Length:14.3mm
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What an impressive army of look-alike little figures! That was my first reaction when I bumped into them on the grounds of the Buddhist Hase-dera temple in Kamakura. On closer examination some of their faces show slightly different features. There must be a few different moulds from which the statues are made, which accounts for the subtle variations. But their faces are all equally pleasant. An amiable army indeed.

Then I learned that they are all statues of Jizo, the protecting deity of the souls of children that died young, especially the ones that never saw the light of day because of miscarriage or abortion, and stillborn children. I understood that it is believed that their souls face a problem on their way to a peaceful afterlife because they have missed the opportunity to accumulate good deeds that are needed to cross the Sanzu River, the Japanese Buddhist version of the Styx. I would think they haven’t had the time for accumulating bad deeds either, but no, we live in an unjust world. Luckily however there is Jizo who can help and protect these poor souls. The unfortunate parents and single mothers come to the Hase-dera temple to add their own Jizo statue (for sale at the gate) to the legion that is already there, asking him to protect the soul of their lost child.

DSC00052 - Hase-dera - Jizo statues - Kamakura - Copy Blog column size

Behind each and every little statue of the gentle Jizo is a sad story to tell:

falling freely, tears and rain, on the garden of Jizo

as an anonymous haiku says.

May Jizo not only protect the souls of the lost children, but equally comfort the grieving mothers and fathers.

Photos of the week: Jizo statues, Hase-dera temple, Kamakura, Japan, 2008

One comment on “The amiable army”

  1. Lovely, Louk. The story as well as the photos.


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