Lower humidity and a nice breeze enticed me out the door to take a walk around Tokyo this afternoon. I started with a circuit of Shibaura Island, and then continued north to Hamamatsucho Station/Tokyo World Trade Center. I then turned west toward Shiba Park and Tokyo Tower. Zojo-ji Buddhist Temple is at Shiba Park, almost at the base of the tower.
I like Zojo-ji. It is the closest major temple to where we live on Shibaura. [However, right now it is undergoing restoration so most of the temple buildings are covered.] One of my favorite things about Zojo-ji Temple, though, is the Jizo garden at the perimeter of the temple grounds. Under the huge old trees, the Jizo garden is shady and quiet… a peaceful respite from the busy surrounding city.
Jizo — or OJizosama — is a popular Buddhist deity known as the protector of travelers, women, and — most especially — children. You see these little statues placed at many of the shrines here in Japan. Jomyo-in Temple near Yanaka Cemetary in Tokyo, is said to have over 84,000 of them all lined up row, upon row, upon row. The thing I like best about Zojo-ji’s Jizo garden, is that they are all so nicely dressed in their little red hats, bibs, and capes, and all have colorful pinwheels spinning in the breeze.
There are many reasons that these little stone statues are placed at shrines and temples. Since they are known as the protectors of children, sometimes pregnant women place a statue to pray for the health and safety of their unborn child. Also, families who have lost a child, either through stillbirth or death, will place a statue to commemorate their loss and to pray for safety of the child in the afterlife. Jizo often wears a red robe under which it is said he shelters and hides the children, safely shepherding their souls to heaven.
Most of the Jizo statues wear little handmade caps and bibs, or capes or robes… usually bright red. Many of the temples (Zojo-ji is one of them) sell the red caps and bibs. The red color symbolizing protection and safety. But some of the statues wear other colorful outfits. Often there are flowers and small toys, candy or fruit left for the children.
It is a very moving and poignant sight to see… but today all the pinwheels were spinning happily in the breeze.