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Earth Store Bodhisattva (or Jizo Bosatsu in Japanese) Introduction

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Earth Store Bodhisattva (or Jizo Bosatsu in Japanese)
Jizo is the only Bodhisattva (Bosatsu) portrayed as a monk -- shaven head, no adornments, no royal attire, nearly always dressed in the simple robe (kesa) of a monk. A halo often surrounds his head. Jizo's customary symbols are the shakujo (six-ring staff) and the hoshunotama (wish-fulfilling jewel). When he shakes the staff, he awakens us from our delusions, to help us break free of the six states of rebirth and achieve enlightenment. The jewel (Skt: cintamani) signifies his bestowal of blessings on all who suffer, for the cintamani is a gem that grants wishes, pacifies desires, and brings clear understanding of the Dharma (Buddhist law).


Jp. = Jizo Bosatsu, Jizou, Jizoo

Skt. = Ksitigarbha / Ksitegarbha

Origin = India
Guardian of Souls in Hell

Savior from the Torments of Hell

Master of Six States of Reincarnation.

Protector of Children, Expectant Mothers, Firemen, Travelers, and Pilgrims.

Protector of Aborted / Miscarried Babies.

Guardian of Children in Limbo

One of the most beloved of all Japanese divinities, Jizo works to ease the suffering and shorten the sentence of those serving time in hell. Jizo can appear in many different forms to alleviate suffering. In modern Japan, Jizo is popularly known as the guardian of unborn, aborted, miscarried, and stillborn babies (Mizuko Jizo). These roles were not assigned to Jizo in earlier Buddhist traditions from mainland Asia; they are instead modern adaptations unique to Japan. At the same time, Jizo serves his customary and traditional roles as patron saint of expectant mothers, children, firemen, travelers, pilgrims, and the protector of all beings caught in the six realms of reincarnation. Other modern manifestations of Jizo in Japan, such as the Asekaki Jizo (Sweating Jizo), are unique to Japan and not found elsewhere in mainland Asia.

ABOVE: Sanskrit Seed Syllable for Jizo, Pronounced KA

In Shingon Buddhism, when young children die, the Sanskrit letter Ka, which stands for Ksitigarbha, is written on the memorial tablet. This signifies that the powerless child is saved and enabled to attain enlightenment.

Jizo Mantra in Japanese Language

On kakaka bisanmaei sowaka (Japanese)

Om ha-ha-ha vismaye svaha (Sanskrit)

Guardian of Souls in Hell

Savior from the Torments of Hell

Savior from Suffering

Master of Six States of Reincarnation

Protector of Children, Expectant Mothers,

Firemen, Travelers, and Pilgrims

Protector of Aborted or Miscarried Babies

Guardian of Children Who Die Prematurely

Described in the Earth Womb Sutra

Garland Sutra, and Sutra of the Ten Cakras



Anzan Jizo

Expectant mothers
Asekaki Jizo

Sweating Jizo. Excretes white sweat if good things are about to happen, and black sweat when bad things are foreseen.

Hadaka Jizo

Nude Jizo; carved nude but dressed in clothing

Hitaki (Kuro) Jizo

Fire Kindling Jizo

Patron of Firemen
Kosodate Jizo


Child-Raising Jizo
Koyasu Jizo


Child-Giving Jizo
Migawari Jizo

Jizo who "substitutes" himself for one who is suffering

Miso Jizo

Bean-Paste Jizo.

Mizuko Jizo

Water-Child Jizo

Guardian of Unborn Children (or children who die prematurely)
Omokaru Jizo


Heavy / Light Jizo
Onegai Jizo

Wish-Giving Jizo

Shibarare Jizo

String-Bound Jizo

Sentai Jizo

1,000 bodies of Jizo; groupings of hundreds of Jizo statues

Shogun Jizo

Battle field protector

Six Realms Jizo

One for each of the six realms of rebirth.

Togenuki Jizo

Splinter-Removing Jizo とげぬき地蔵

Wheel Jizo

Present life & afterlife

JIZO'S ORIGINS. Along with Kannon Bodhisttva (Goddess of Mercy), Jizo is perhaps the most popular deity of the common people, a friend to all, never frightening even to children, and his/her many manifestations -- often cute and cartoon like in modern Japan -- incorporate attributes from both Buddhist traditions and from earlier Shinto beliefs and Shinto kami (deities). Jizo statues can be found everywhere in Japan, especially in graveyards. Jizo is often translated as "Womb of the Earth," for JI means earth, while ZO means womb. But "ZO" can also be translated with equal correctness as "store house" or "repository of treasure" -- thus Jizo is also translated as "earth store" or "earth treasury."
Although of India origin, Kshitigarbha (Jizo) is revered more widely in Japan, Korea, and China than in either India or Tibet. In Japan, Jizo first appears in records of Nara Period (710 to 794 AD), and then spreads throughout Japan via the Tendai and Shingon sects. In China, Jizo worship can be traced back to at least the fifth century AD (to the Chinese translation of the Sutra of the Ten Cakras 大方広十輪経), and in later centuries Chinese artwork often shows Jizo surrounded by the ten kings of hell to signify Jizo's role in delivering people from the torments of hell. But Jizo is mentioned even earlier in the Mahavaipulya Sutra (Garland Sutra) of India, in which he appears to the historical Buddha at the time of the Buddha's death. Jizo is a Bodhisattva (Bosatsu), one who achieves enlightenment but postpones Buddhahood until all can be saved. He promised to remain among us doing good works, to help all those spinning endlessly in the six realms, until the advent of Miroku Nyorai (Maitreya; the Buddha of the Future). Miroku is scheduled to arrive, according to the Shingon Sect, about 5.6 billion years from now.
In Japan, Jizo first appears in the Ten Cakras Sutra in the Nara period (now a treasure held by the Nara National Museum), but the height of his early popularity was during the late Heian era (794 to 1192 AD) when the rise of the Jodo Sect (Pure Land Sect devoted to Amida Nyorai) intensified fears about hell in the afterlife. Since then, Jizo worship has attained a tremendous following in Japan, and even today Jizo is one of Japan's most common and widely revered deities. Due to his association with the realm of death and suffering souls, he is also closely associated with Amida Nyorai and with Amida's heavenly western paradise, where true believers may seek enlightenment and avoid the torments of hell. However, Amida is not revered by the Nichiren sect, who hold Amida worship in low esteem.

In Japan today, Jizo Bosatsu and Kannon Bosatsu are two of the most popular Buddhist saviors among the common folk. Like Jizo, Kannon is intimately associated with Amida Nyorai (Buddha), for Kannon is one of Amida's principal attendants. Statues of Kannon, moreover, often include a tiny image (Jp. = Kebutsu 化仏) of Amida in the headdress. Curiously, both Jizo and Kannon underwent a change in identity after arriving in Japan. Kannon is male in the Buddhist traditions of India, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. But in China (less so in Japan), the Kannon is typically portrayed as a female divinity. In Japan, the male form was adopted, and it remains the predominant form in Japanese sculpture and art. But female manifestations of Kannon are nonetheless plentiful in Japan. Indeed, a persistent femininity clings to Kannon imagery in both pre-modern and modern Japan. This holds true in Western nations as well, where Kannon is most commonly known as the "Goddess of Mercy." Conversely, Jizo was initially female, but is now portrayed almost always as male, except, perhaps, when appearing as the Koyasu (Child-Giving) Jizo).


Says The Flammarion Iconographic Guide by Louis Frederic: "The Chinese Ksitigarbha Sutra relates that, before becoming a Bodhisattva, Jizo was a young Indian girl of the Brahmin caste so horrified by the torment her late impious mother was suffering in hell that she vowed to save all beings from such torments."

Says Wikipedia: "In the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the Historical Buddha revealed that in past aeons, Ksitigarbha (Jizo) 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)."

a) Below Excerpt Courtesy of:



From book Jizo Bodhisattva

by Chozen Roshi
The most common form of Jizo made in Japan today is the Mizuko Jizo. The Mizuko Jizo often is portrayed as a monk with an infant in his arms and another child or two at his feet, clutching the skirt of his robe. The Mizuko Jizo is the central figure in a popular but somewhat controversial ceremony called the mizuko kuyo.
The word ku-yo is 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 kuyo refers to a memorial service and mizuko kuyo 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 Jizo usually is the central figure on the altar at such a ceremony. Grieving parents may buy a small statue of Mizuko Jizo 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, 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.
Also people in America and Europe have only recently become acquainted with Jizo Bodhisattva, mistaken beliefs among Westerners about Jizo already exist. The Mizuko Jizo, although currently popular, revered, and omnipresent in Japan, is not an ancient Jizo. Nor is it the only form of Jizo, as the list of types of Jizos at the end of last chapter demonstrates. The term "mizuko" does not appear in Buddhist or Shinto scriptures. The mizuko kuyo is not an ancient rite nor was it originally a Buddhist ceremony. Both the Mizuko Jizo 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.

Entitled "Jizo Bodhisattva. Modern Healing & Traditional Buddhist Practice. By Jan Chozen Bays, a Zen master in the lineage of Maezumi Roshi and a member of the White Plum Sangha. She is also the spiritual head of the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon. Published 2002 by Tuttle Publishing.

ISBN 0-8048-3189-0

b) At Hase Dera Temple in Kamakura, where most of the photos on this page were taken, Jizo plays the role of guardian for stillborn, miscarried, or aborted children. Hundreds of little Jizo statues can be found at this temple.
According to legend attributed to the Jodo Sect around the 14th or 15th century, children who die prematurely are sent to the underworld as punishment for causing great sorrow to their parents. They are sent to Sai no Kawara, 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 Shozuka no Baba, soon arrive and scatter their stones and beat them with iron clubs. But, no need to worry, for Jizo comes to the rescue. In one version of the story, Jizo 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 "Mizuko Jizo." This form of Jizo is unique to Japan, and did not appear until after the end of World War II. See Mizuko Jizo below for more.
From comic book by Daido Publications, Tokyo
(2) Stones and Jizo
Even today, you will invariably find little heaps of stones and pebbles on or around Jizo statues, as many believe that a stone offered in faith will shorten the time their child suffers in the underworld. You will also notice that Jizo statues are often wearing tiny garments. Since Jizo is the guardian of dead children, sorrowing parents bring the little garments of their lost ones and dress the Jizo statue in hopes Jizo will specially protect their child. A little hat or bib or toy is often seen as well, the gift of a rejoicing parent whose child has been cured of dangerous sickness thanks to Jizo's intervention, or a gift to help the deceased child in the afterlife.
(3) Hitaki (Kuro) Jizo

The Fire Kindling Jizo

Jizo also has many devotees among firemen. The story is that Jizo descends into the infernal regions to witness the punishments and tortures of condemned souls. He was so affected by their agony that he, for a time, took the place of their relentless custodian, and greatly reduced the intense heat of the purgatorial fires to ease their pain. Hence his following among firemen. This Jizo is known as the Black Jizo (the "Kuro" or "Hitaki" Jizo).

Six States of Existence

Jizo vowed to assist beings in each of the Six Realms of Existence, in particular those in hell, and is thus often shown in groupings of six. Within the six realms (or states), the lowest three are called the three evil paths. They are the states of (1) people in hell, (2) hungry ghosts, and (3) animals. Above these three realms are the states of (4) Asuras, (5) Humans, and (6) Devas. For details on the six states (also called the Six Paths of Transmigration or Reincarnation, the Wheel of Life, or the Cycle of Suffering), click here.
(4) Roku Jizo (Groupings of Six Jizo)

In Japan, groupings of six Jizo statues (one for each of the Six Realms) are quite common and often placed at busy intersections or oft-used roads to protect travelers and those in "transitional" states. Jizo also often carries a staff with six rings, which he shakes to awaken us from our delusions -- the rings likewise symbolize the six states of existence. The six Jizo come in various versions. One common grouping is:

Enmei (long life; prolonger of life; Beings in Hell)

Hoshu (Ratnapani; treasure hand or possession; Hungry Ghosts)

Hoin (Ratnamudrapani; treasure seal; possession of earth; Animals)

Hosho (Ratnakara; treasure place; place of treasures; Asura)

Jichi (Dharanidhara; land possession; earth; Humans)

Kenko-i or Nikko (strong determination; Deva)

(5) Hats for Jizo
a) Type of Work: Folk tale for Grade level K-2

Story retold by Miyoko Matsutani

Illustrated by Fumio Matsuyama

Translated by Donna Tamaki

16 picture sheets

ISBN-10: 4947613173 or ISBN-13: 978-4947613172

Summary: Hats for the Jizo (Kasa Jizo). 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 Jizo (a Buddhist deity of compassion), 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 Jizo reward the couple for their unselfish generosity.

Below Text Courtesy of

Buddhism: Flammarion

Iconographic Guides

ISBN: 2-08013-558-9
b) On New Year's Eve, a poor, old man goes to the village hoping to sell some cloth that his wife has woven so he can buy some special food to celebrate the New Year. No one is interested in buying the cloth, however, and just to have something different to take home he exchanges his cloth for the straw hats another man has been trying to sell. On the way home, the old man sees six statues of the deity Jizo, looking cold because they are covered with snow. The old man decides to cover their bare heads using the five straw hats and his own scarf. When he arrives home, he tells his wife what happened. The old woman approves of what her husband had done. The couple celebrate the New Year with the simple food they usually eat and go to bed early. During the night they are rewarded by the statues of Jizo.

c) Note: The story of Kasa Jizo is about a grandfather and grandmother. It is New Year’s Eve. A weaver, the grandfather goes to town to sell his hats to earn money to buy food for the holiday. But as he sits by the roadside, no one buys his hats. Finally he gives up and heads for home. It is snowing. Seeing six stone jizo, hatless and cold, he gives each a hat. When he returns home and explains, the grandmother says, You have done a good thing. We’ll just have ochazuke (rice soup) tonight. At dawn they hear sounds. The jizo have come to return the favor. New Year’s gifts are piled up by their door.


Long ago in Japan there was an old couple with no children. They were very poor. One year the snow came earlier and caught them unprepared so things were worse than usual. They didn't have enough money to buy rice cakes for the new year. The wife suggested that they sell her wedding kimono and buy rice cakes with the money they received from it. The old man reluctantly agreed and he set off into the snow to sell the kimono. He crossed the six sacred Jizo statues and apologized for not having anything to leave for an offering,but promised them rice cakes on his way back. Then he came across a woman with a basket of fans. She had been hoping to sell the fans and buy a new kimono. The old man felt sorry for her and traded the kimono for the fans. The man tried to sell the fans in the village. Nobody glanced at him. The man became very hungry.He saw a noodle peddlar nearby. The old man went up to the peddlar and offered to trade a fan for some noodles. The noodle peddlar scoffed at him and said," What would I want a fan for in the winter?" Discouraged, the old man walked away. He bumped into a chubby man with a golden bell. The chubby fellow thought the fans were beautiful and offered to trade them for the golden bell. The old man thought that someone might want the bell to ring in the new year so he agreed. But by this time the crowd had thinned out and nobody paid any attention to the little old man with the golden bell. The man stopped to talk to a young man selling bamboo hats. The young man hadn't had much luck but he wasn't going to give up yet. The old man was so inspired by the young man's enthusiastic attitude that he traded the golden bell for five bamboo hats. Then the man headed home. HE hadn't bought any rice cakes but he had helped the spirited young man. The old man reached the Jizo statues again. He had forgotten all about his promise to them. Then he remembered the bamboo hats. He went along the row placing a hat on the head of each statue. Then he realized that he had only bought five hats and there were six statues. So the old man removed his own hat and placed it on the head of the sixth statue. And he continued home. By the time he got there he was completely snow covered. His wife hurried him inside and he told her what had happened .The old man hung his head, ashamed. But when he dared to look up he saw that his wife was smiling. "You're not mad?" he asked. "No. I'm proud." "I didn't bring any rice cakes." He pointed out. "I know. but you showed respect to the Jizo statues which was better." The old couple went to sleep then, but were soon awakened by a loud thud outside. They opened the door and found a gigantic rice cake on their doorstep. Then they saw the Jizo statues coming up the hill. The statues bowed to the old couple and then left. The rice cake kept the couple fed for weeks and they had good fortune for the rest of their lives.

(from ???
The name of this Bodhisattva means "He who encompasses the earth." According to the monk Eshin (Genshin, 942-1017), he is also the master of the six worlds of desire and of the six destinies of rebirth. When considered in particular as a Bodhisattva who consoles the beings in hell, he is identical to Yamaraja (Japanese Enma-o), the king of the Buddhist hells (Naraka, Japanese Jigoku). In India, Ksitigarbha, although known very early to the Mahayana sects (since the fourth century), does not appear to have enjoyed popular favour, and none of his representations can be found, either there or in South-East Asia. In China, on the contrary, he was fairly popular since the fifth century, after the translation of the Sutra of the Ten Cakras which lists his qualities.
Ksitigarbha, moved by compassion, is said - like all Bodhisattvas - to have made the wish to renounce the status of Buddha until the advent of Maitreya (Jp: Miroku), in order to help the beings of the destinies of rebirth. In hell, his mission is to lighten the burdens caused by previous evil actions, to secure from the judges of hell an alleviation of the fate of the condemned, and to console them. Thus, in the popular mind, Ksitigarbha has become the Bodhisattva of hells par excellence.
His cult remains immensely popular in Japan, where it spread from the ninth century in the Tendai and Shingon sects. A popular custom made him the confessor to whom faults committed during the year were revealed, in the so-called "confession of Jizo ceremony."



David G. Lanoue, PHD

Xavier University, Louisiana, USA

In Chinese Buddhist myth Jizo became associated with Yama, the overlord of Hell, most likely because of his (formerly her) ancient association with earth's womb. Nevertheless, in folklore he appears as a savior, not punisher. For example, in one old Chinese tale a son's filial piety moves Jizo to deliver that son's sinful, dead mother out of hell. Similarly, in a Japanese story, he appears in the form of a beautiful young boy and rescues a righteous man from hell by offering to suffer in the man's place (Dykstra 180; 194-95). In Pure Land Buddhism, that branch of Buddhism that relies on Amida Buddha to enable one to be reborn in his Western Paradise, Jizo gained a reputation as one who could assist sinful mortals in their last moments of life, effecting their rebirth in the Pure Land. This is why, in many Japanese temples, statues of Jizo stand on one side of Amida, while Kannon, the bodhisattva of mercy, stands on the other.

Jizo's role in Pure Land Buddhism made him widely popular in medieval Japan, where this movement spread far and wide among the masses. Somewhere along the way, he picked up other duties in addition to helping souls reach Amida's Pure Land, such as providing protection for travelers. Even today, stone and wood Jizos can found all over Japan along remote roads, where they watch over those who journey there. (See Dosojin for more on this topic.) Jizo's kind, generous, and selfless nature led Japanese people to revere him additionally as a guardian of children. Yet, as we have seen, he is much more than this thumbnail sketch found in dictionaries.


Below text courtesy of JAANUS

Jizou is usually represented either standing or seated in the guise of a monk, with a shaven head and wearing monk's robes. In early examples he holds a wish-fulfilling gem (houju 宝珠) in his left hand while his right hand displays the wish-granting mudra (yogan-in 与願印). Later examples, from about the mid-Heian period (10c) onwards show him holding a gem in his left hand and a staff (shakujou 錫杖) in his right, and this has since become the standard form. Some other variant forms are as follows: Yata Jizou 矢田地蔵 (the prototype for which is found at Kongousenji 金剛山寺, also known as Yatadera 矢田寺, Nara prefecture), holds a gem in his left hand and displays the 'mudra for bestwoing fearlessness' (semui-in 施無畏印) with his right hand; Enmei (Longevity) Jizou 延命地蔵, seated with the left leg pendent; Hadaka (Naked) Jizou 裸地蔵, with the image clothed in real robes and not carved as part of the image; Hibou (Hatted) Jizou 被帽地蔵 with his head covered. Karate (Empty-handed) Jizou 空手地蔵, holding nothing in his hands; Shougun (Victorious) Jizou 勝軍地蔵, shown clad in armour. Reflecting the great popularity of his cult among the general populace, stone images of Jizou are very common in Japan, and will often be seen even along the roadside.
Because of his mission to save all sentient beings, there evolved the idea of Six Jizou (Roku Jizou 六地蔵), one responsible for each of the six realms of transmigratory existence (rokudou-e 六道絵). The six realms constitute the life cycle of unenllightened mortals: they are Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity and Heaven. Representations of these six Jizou are common. The denizens of hell were considered to be especially deserving of his help, and thus Jizou has come to be revered in particular as the saviour of those suffering therein. Both in China and Japan he is sometimes depicted in hell surrounded by the Ten Kings (or Judges) of Hell (Juuou 十王); such a depiction is called a "picture of Jizou and the Ten Kings" (Jizou juuou-zu 地蔵十王図). As a result of this compassionate association he was also assimilated into the Pure Land faith (joudokyou 浄土教), and there evolved a version of the Amida triad (Amida sanzon 阿弥陀三尊) with Amida 阿弥陀 flanked by Jizou and Kannon, and an "Amida Pentad" (Amida gobutsu 阿弥陀五仏) consisting of Amida, Kannon, Seishi 勢至, Jizou and Ryuuju 龍樹 (Sk:Nagarjuna).
Jizou is also regarded as the protector of children, in which role he is known as Kosodate (child-raising) Jizou 子育地蔵 and may be represented cradling a child, and he figures among the so-called Thirteen Buddhas (juusanbutsu 十三仏), presiding over the memorial service held on the 35th day after a person's death. In Esoteric Buddhism (mikkyou 密教), Jizou appears in the matrix mandala (Taizoukai mandara 胎蔵界曼荼羅) as the central figure in the Jizouin 地蔵院 where he takes the form of a bodhisattva holding a solar disc in his right hand and a lotus surmounted with a banner in his left hand. In the Diamond World Mandala, (Kongoukai mandara 金剛界曼荼羅) he is identified in Japan with Kongoudou 金剛幢 (Sk: Vajraketu) among the 16 Great Bodhisattvas (juuroku daibosatsu 十六大菩薩).

(8) Below text and photo

courtesy of Yomiuri Shimbun

Sept. 9, 2003, edition

The gentle, round face of Jizo, 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) Jizo" is said to have been donated to the temple by its founder, Ito Hanbei, in memory of his late parents.

There are other Shibarare Jizo statues in other locations around Tokyo. However, the statue at Rinsenji appeared in "Zenigata Heiji," a detective story set in the Edo Era (1603-1868), written by novelist Kodo Nomura (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 day, 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.

(9) Miso (Bean Paste) Jizo

みそ地蔵 (広島県広島市東山)

At Saizouji Temple (in Higashiyama, Hiroshima), people bring a flat pack of miso (bean paste), put it on the head of a seated Jizo 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 Jizo is even more popular than Michizane Sugawara, a courtier in the Heian period who was deified after death -- he is considered a Shinto deity and venerated as the patron of scholarship, learning, and calligraphy at Tenjin shrines throughout Japan. Miso means bean paste. It is also short for "noumiso," the latter term meaning "brain." Thus, Miso Jizo is a play on sounds.
(10) Onegai Jizo お願い地蔵. Another similar form of Jizo. Literally the "wish-giving" or "ask-a-favor" Jizo. At many temples, visitors can buy tiny images of Jizo, which they deposit around the main Jizo statue when praying for Jizo's help.
(11)Miso Licking Jizo みそなめ地蔵.

a) In other locations, people worship the so-called "Miso Licking Jizo." According to folklore, people who are granted their wishes are supposed to visit "Miso Licking" temples and smear miso around the mouth of the Jizo statue. In other areas, people spread miso on Jizo 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 Jizo's teeth if you have a tooth ache, on Jizo's eye if you have an eye disease, etc. This symbolism is similar to another manifestation of Jizo called the Migawari Jizo (Substitution Jizo). This latter Jizo "substitutes" himself for the suffering of the people, curing them by taking on their pain. For much more on Miso Jizo, the Miso Licking Jizo, and other unique Japanese manifestations of this beloved deity, please see Gabi Greve's Miso Jizo page.
b) There is a temple in Hiroshima, Higashiyama, where people bring a flat pack of miso (bean paste), put it on the head of a seated Jizo statue, say a prayer and then put it on their own head, to cure illness or pray for intelligence, to pass the school and university exams.
In the area here in Hiroshima, this Jizo is more popular than Sugawara Michizane, another deity venerated for passing school exams and promotion of learning.

The statue is in the temple Saizoo-Ji, in honor of Fukushima Masanori and his deeds during the war at the beginning of the Edo period.

miso can be short for noomiso, the brain, and miso jizo is a play of sounds.
c) A stone relief of about the size of one tatami.
A farmer's wife had problems with the taste of her home-made miso paste. At night she had a dream, where this Jizo appeared and said: If you past your bad miso on my mouth for me to taste, I will change the taste of it!

As she did so the next morning, the taste of her home-made miso improved greatly.

Now many women come here to smear a bit of miso around the mouth of this Jizo, when they make a new batch of the bean paste every year.
d) Miso Licking Jizo of Yonago

Way in the past, there lived an old priest and his young disciple in Yonago, in the temple Baioo-Ji. They decided to prepare some miso and boiled a large pot of soy beans. When the beans were boiled, the old greedy priest wanted to eat some right away, filled a big bowl with them and retreated to the temple toilet, a smelly place, to eat them in peace, because he thought nobody would detect him there.

The little disciple had the same idea, filled his bowl with beans and headed for the toilet, only to find it occupied by his head priest. The young one's face turned all red, since he felt discovered by his boss, and in a clever movement, streched his arms with the bowl toward the priest and said: "Here, Master, I brought you another bowl to taste."

To that day, it is custom when you have a wish granted, to go to the Jizo statue at this temple and smear some miso around his mouth. During the annual Bon festival, miso is also spread for this Jizo. On the 24th of August, the day of the "Jizo Bon (Jizoo Bon 地蔵盆", there is a large festival in honor of this Miso Jizo.

e) Temple Tenkei-Ji at Numada Town
You spread miso on the part of a stone Jizo, which corresponds to the part of your body which hurts. This Jizo is especially well known for healing tooth aches.
f) There is even a brand of real miso, called "Jizo Miso 地蔵味噌".

RUBBING TRADITIONS. In related matters, the rubbing of miso 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 Binzuru (Pindola), the most widely revered of the Arhat in Japan, and Yakushi Nyorai, 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 Daikoku (the god of wealth and farmers, and one of Japan's Seven Lucky Gods). People rub Daikoku statues in the hope of gaining good luck and fortune (i.e., they believe good luck will rub off on them).

(12) Asekaki Jizo 汗かき地蔵

Sweating Jizo. Excretes white sweat if good things are about to happen, and black sweat when bad things are foreseen.

The Sweating Jizo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva).
One of many manifestations of Jizo.
Below Research Courtesy of GABI GREVE

Sweating Jizo
at Daio-Cho Town
Ise-Shima Area, Mie Prefecture

a) The local Jizo Hall in Daio-cho Town holds one of the three great festivals in the Ise-Shima area, the Festival of the Sweating Jizo. According to local legend, a statue of Jizo was long ago caught in a fishing net off Daio Island. It took three attempts to finally retrieve the statue, as though the statue was resisting capture. The fisherman and villagers decided to build a hall and enshrine the statue there to act as a protective village deity. Since then, local residents say this Jizo statue excretes white sweat if good things are about to happen, and black sweat when bad things are foreseen. The body of this seated stone statue of Jizo is about three feet in height. According to locals, a beautiful pearl is hidden inside the statue. When people pray to this manifestation of Jizo, some may wipe away Jizo's sweat with a purified paper. This, say believers, will bring answers to their prayers. For more on the legend of the Sweating Jizo, please see the "Izo Engibun," written in 1682 AD by the Buddhist priest Fukuju of Senyuji Temple. The festival of the sweating Jizo is held on February 24th each year. To learn more about the Daio-Cho Sweating Jizo, please see below links:

  • (Japanese)

  • (Japanese

  • (English)

b) Substitute Jizo. Dream-Giving Jizo
Other legends about this particular Jizo statue include a story that Jizo 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 Jizo is known as the Substitute Jizo (Migawari Jizo 身代り地蔵), one who substitutes himself for our suffering. Yet another legend says that, in 1670 AD, Tadamasa Naito, the Lord of Toba, suffered from lung disease. Unable to cure himself with the medicines of that day, he prayed to this Jizo and was cured of his illness. Since then, this Jizo was also known as the "Dream Giver," or one who can make your dreams come true.
c) Sweating Jizo
Kaida-son Village, Nagano Prefecture
In front of the local Genryuu-ji Temple are six statues of Jizo Bosatsu, a grouping found commonly in Japan. The largest statue, the one in the middle, is known locally as the Sweating Jizo. It will sweat black to warn local farmers of a late frost or an upcoming dry spell. Forewarned about impending frost, for example, the villagers will make bonfires in the fields to protect the crops from the cold.

d) Sweating Jizo
at Funo Town, Chiba Prefecture

Located in a special Hall for the Life-Prolonging Jizo (Enmei Jizo). On a woodblock print found here, one can see the people assembling around this Jizo as the center of their worship. Local folk say this Jizo also helps to ensure easy birth and to protect the elderly. In old times, according to the legend, when someone in the village died, the neighbors gathered here to pray, only to witness sweat coming from Jizo's body -- indicating, it is said, Jizo's willingness to assume the pain and sorrow of the people.

e) Sweating Jizo at Mt. Koya
Sacred Mountain of
Shingon (Esoteric Buddhism)
Many people are buried in this sacred area, and gravestones of all types can be found here. Jizo, popularly known as the protector of those serving time in the Netherworld, is represented in many forms, including the Sweating Jizo.

f) Sweating Jizo
Chookoo-Ji Temple
Inazawa Village, Aichi Prefecture

This Jizo sweats to warn people that something bad is about to happen. Sometimes the villagers come with towels to dry him down, but he just keeps pouring sweat from his head down. 

Sweating Jizo
Nakajima-mura Village, Fukushima Prefecture
Famous since the Edo Period as the "Sweating Jizo of the Northern Province" (Ooshuu Asekaki Jizoo奥州汗かき地蔵). The Jizo Hall, where the statue is enshrined, dates from the year 1335.

g) Sweating Jizo
Hashima, Gifu Prefrefecture
This Jizo does not sweat to warn against bad things, but he sweats in the morning, when the monks go begging (takuhatsu) for food and contributions.


    Lots of Jizo Photos from the 88 Temples of Shikoku; photos by the Health Center Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University; quite excellent

  • List of the Many Manifestations of Jizo Bosatsu in Japan






  • (Tokuzoo-Ji Temple)


(13) Kan'on-ji has a friendly atmosphere that blends in well with the town around it. The temple is familiar to many neighbors as a place to relax, especially to senior citizens, who visit here early in the morning. On the grounds of the temple is a stone Buddhist image called "Yonaki Jizo" that wears many flower-patterned bibs. This Jizo is believed to keep babies from crying at night. (from ???
(14) HYAKUDO MAIRI (Mostly a Shinto Tradition)

There is a Japanese Buddhist variant of the Hyakudo Mairi Shinto tradition that involves the beloved Jizo Bosatsu. It is called the 地蔵車. This translates as the Jizo Wheel (which includes the afterlife wheel, 後生車, ごしょうぐるま) and the Bosatsu wheel (菩提車, ぼだいぐるま). 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:

(15) Omokaru Jizo


Below text courtesy of Gabi Greve.

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 Jizo Bosatsu is used instead of a stone. For more details and a list of sites where these stones are located, please see this web page by Gabi Greve.

(16) Ajimi Jizo 嘗試地蔵 (味見地蔵, 毒味地蔵)

Jizo Bosatsu tasting the food for Kobo Daishi
(あじみ・どくみじぞうそん)奥之院 嘗試地蔵尊

嘗試 kokoromi is another reading.

Kobo Daishi, Kukai (774-835)
Kukai died on Mount Koya on April 23, 835, and it is believed that even now he remains in eternal samadhi in his bodily form within the inner shrine on the mountain. He has his cloths changed twice a year for summer and winter. He gets food every day. Details about his life are in the LINK below.
Kobo Daishi, Kukai 弘法大師 空海
(Kooboo Daishi, Kuukai) .. .. .. (774-835)
Founder of Shingon Japanese Esoteric Buddhism

For kigo about Kuukai see below.

Edited from an article by Koyu Sonoda:

There are few figures in Japanese history about whom such abundant biographies have been written as Kukai, popularly known by his posthumous title, Kobo Daishi.

Kukai was born in 774 in Sanuki Province on Shikoku. His birth name was Saeki no Mao. At seventeen he succeeded in entering the university. The trained his memory by using the Mantra of Akashagarbha.

In the autumn of 804, the first of the official diplomatic ships, in which Kukai was traveling, arrived in northeastern Fukien province in China. In the autumn of 806, Kukai returned to Japan.

Kukai's dazzling genius is graphically apparent in the calligraphy of a letter to Saicho (最澄), which is considered his greatest masterpiece.

He founded a temple on Mount Koya (高野山) in 816. Early in 823, Kukai was granted Toji (Too-ji 東寺), a temple situated at the entrance to Kyoto.

Kukai died on Mount Koya on April 23, 835, and it is believed that even now he remains in eternal samadhi in his bodily form within the inner shrine on the mountain.

Most ubiquitous are the tales about wells and springs associated with Kukai. A typical story is that in a certain village there was not sufficient water for irrigation, so the villagers had to be sparing in use of the water they drew from a far-off well. One day, there came passing through the village a traveling priest, who asked for a drink. The villagers willingly brought him one, whereupon the traveler, in thanks, struck the ground with his staff and a spring of water came gushing up. The traveler was in fact Kukai.

The best known of such activities is his direction of the reconstruction of the reservoir called Mannoike in Sanuki Province on Shikoku.

Read the complete story of his life here, please:

Safekeep Copy is here:


Kobo Daishi for a modern need:
To bring children and good luck (like Daruma san).
子授招福大師 Kosazuke Daishi
An Offering from a Daishi Group in Osaka.
At the Temple Gokuraku-Ji, Nr. 2 in Shikoku.
修行大師像 平成十五年(2003年造像) 大阪極楽講同行による勧請、子授け招福をかなえて下さる修行大師様、 他の修行大師と違い子供を抱いておられるのが特徴 .

This small Jizo statue stands in a small hall in front of the inner sanctuary, Oku no In 奥の院, the hall where Kobo Daishi resides to this day. Every morning at six and at an early lunchtime around 10 he gets food, prepared by monks in a special kitchen, mostly from food offerings of the believers.

(Before the adaption to our modern times, food was brought at four and six in the morning!)

The food is carried in a special procession on a tray along this little hall and a bit of each item placed for Jizo to taste it, making sure he gets no poison.

Before Jizo was installed in this place, a deity called "Mikurya Myoojin" 御厨明神 stayed there, as an incarnatin of Aizen Myo-O. This deity transformed again into Byoodoo Oo 平等王, who is another deification of Jizo.
(This is the confusing theory of the recruitment of Shinto deities to the side of Buddhism.)

When Kobo Daishi was still alive and spend his days at Koya San, there was a couple of his disciples that cared for his daily needs and food, called Aiman 愛慢 and Aigo 愛語. These two have later been transformed to Mikurya Myoojin. Since they came from the land of Tosa with Kukai, they are also called "Tosa no Kuni Mikurya Myoojin「土佐の国御厨明神」(とさのくにのみくりやのみょうじん).

KURIYA 厨 is another old name for a dirt floor kitchen, where food was prepared for the monks. So they are a kind of kitchen deities.

The custom of carrying food has been obeserved since olden times, it was first written about in 1023, when Fujiwara no Michinaga 藤原道長 visited Koya san.

Here is a photo of the small hall.

Detail of the Jizo face

© PHOTOS : 2004 高野山真言宗 総本山金剛峯寺


Monks carrying the food for Kobo Daishi 空海の膳

© PHOTO 佐藤弘弥撮影
Look at this LINK for more super photos of Koya San.


Jizo from Temple Shinpei-Ji 心平寺 地蔵 
Shinpeiji Jizo

© PHOTO NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation

Many years ago, when I still lived in Kamakura, a priest from temple Kencho-Ji took me around a tour, showing this statue with great pride. I saw it again last night on TV, click on the photo above for more details (in Japanese).

The valley where Temple Kencho-Ji (Kenchoo-Ji 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 and its main deity of worship was a statue of Jizo Bosatsu.

Later the temple declined and only the Jizo Hall remained. The valley was newly structured by order of Hojo Tokiyori, now with a temple called Kencho-Ji. In 1910(明治43, the Shinpei-Ji temple was relocated to Sankei-En Park in Yokohama, but the Jizo Statue was kept.
Temple Kencho-Ji also has a statue of Jizo Bosatsu as its main deity, but this is much bigger. For a temple of the Zen sect, to have Jizo as its main deity is rather seldom, usually it is Shaka, the Buddha himself. But here the old tradition was kept alive.

The old statue of Jizo, which had survived, was placed to the right of the big Jizo statue in a small alcove, together with almost 300 small statues of Jizo, some as old as the Muromachi period. Now more small statues surround it, altogether called "one thousand Jizo statues".

This statue is sometimes called
Shinpei Jizo San, 心平地蔵さん.

The legend of Zaita is also told here. The samurai Zaita Gozaemon 済田佐衛門金吾 should have been executed here, but was not guilty. Zaita had always kept a small statue of Jizo as his personal protector deity. The sword of the executioner hit him many times, but could not cut him. His Jizo statue later showed small scratches in the back or the neck (legend differs). He later offered this statue to the temple Shinpei-Ji, where it was enshrined in the head of the main Jizo statue.

Later this small statue was incorporated as a "inside Buddha statue" (tainai butsu) when carving the Big Jizo Statue for Kencho-Ji. (Now this precious Zaita statue is kept in a secure place elsewhere.)
His small statue was later called "Zaita Jizo" 斉田地蔵.

Statue of the Big Jizo Bosatsu
© PHOTO ktmchi (from
Some statues of Ksitigarbha (Jizo Bosatsu) are worshipped in the same way in Japan. They differ in no way from the normal images representing this deity, except that this form is named Koyasu Jizo, due to the powers attributed to her.

Below Text from This Outside Site

During Jizo-Bon, Jizo statues are washed and decorated with red bibs and red hats. We serve meals to thank them for protecting children. Jizo-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.
(20) In 2005, scholar Duncan Williams published The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan. Chapter Five of this book, entitled "Medicine and Faith Healing in the Soto Zen Tradition" investigates the close links between miraculous medicine and healing practices at Soto temples. Williams lists a wide range of illnesses that were cured through faith in Jizo Bodhisattva, and translates various mircale stores of healing that center on the time span between 1713 and 1812. Sources such as the Enmei Jizouson Inkou Riyakuki 延命地蔵尊印行利益記 (Records of the Benefits Gained from Printing Talismans of the Prolonging-Life Jizou), written in 1822, allow readers to get a precise idea of how their authors understood the efficiency of specific rituals to cure specific problems. It is fascinating to note that these problems were far from being limited to physical ailments, and also included issues such as "loss of money" or being "about to commit suicide." < Above review from the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 33/1 (2006, pages 176 and 177, written by Michel Mohr, Doshisha University. >
Book published by Princeton University Press, 2005

ISBN 0-691-11928-7.

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