Jizou Bosatsu or Jizo Bodhisttava is one of the Bodhisttavas or saints worshiped in Buddhism. Jizou is a Japanese translation of the Sanskrit word, Kshitigarbha, the name of a Bodhisattva which means “Earth Womb”.
Jizou appears generally as a shaven-headed figure wearing a Buddhist priest’s surplice with a tin cane in his right hand and a houjyu ball in his left hand.
For 5 billion 670 million years between the death of Buddha and the emergence of Miroku Bosatsu or Bodhisattva Maitreya, Jizou is believed to save mankind caught in the “Six Realms of Reincarnation”. It is therefore common to see Six-Jizou statues, each representing a state of six different rebirths, being worshipped in all parts of Japan.
In Japan, belief in Jizo Bosatsu started to spread among people after the “Pure Land” belief took popularity in the Heian period. Later, Six-Jizo worship became prevalent all over Japan, eventually merging with Douso - an ancient belief born in Japan, These were the foundation of what we see today.
Bosatsu is the second highest Buddha after Nyorai or the Healing Buddha. Despite that elevated status, Jizo Bosatsu declared he won`t go back to the world of Bodhisattva until he realizes the salvation of all beings. He is believed to continue travelling the six realms of reincarnation on foot to salvage the souls of all beings.
Japan’s largest Jizo Bosatsu statue with a height of 4 m is enshrined at the side of National Route 4 in Sanbongi Town in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It was erected in 1765 in the Edo period to appease the souls of the criminals who were burned at the stake. Beside the statue is another smaller Jizo Bosatsu holding babies under both arms. Today, a lot of families visit this place to pray for children’s growth and fine health.
In April every year, a festival is dedicated to this Jizo Bosatsu. The Chigo (children in ancient costumes) parade and the traffic safety campaign parade, in which 200 local organizations participate, are held in the town. Spectators along the road applaud and cheer on the children wearing elegant costumes and walking proudly hand in hand with their mothers.
Oshokyoin Temple located in Nakauchida, Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is the statue of Amida Nyorai (quasi national treasure). The temple originates in Tengakuin Temple of the Tendai sect, which was established in 855 by the priest Jikaku Daishi as an Imperial prayer temple for Emperor Montoku. Later, Honen Shonin (1133-1212), the founder of the Jodo sect Buddhism, placed the statue of Amida here to the memory of his teacher, Koen Ajari, who was said to have transformed himself into the Ryujin (dragon god) to save people in Sakuragaike Pond in the neighboring town. The temple sect was changed from the Tendai sect to the Jodo sect and its name was also changed from Tengakuin to Oshokyoin at this time.
Oshokyoin is a branch temple of Chioin Temple in Kyoto. It is also known as the fudasho (a visiting place for pilgrims) for those who are born in the year of dragon and snake in Enshu (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) area. The temple possesses the manuscript of the Koen Ajari legend and the statue of Hafuki Amida Nyorai (Amida with mouth open). Up the stone steps at the entrance stands the Sanmon Gate (the temple gate), which was erected by the 2nd Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. In the precinct are full of unique objet d'art such as Nonbei Jizo (Bottle-man Jizo). There are also two of the Seven Wonders in Enshu, Mitabi-guri (a chestnut tree producing chestnuts three times a year) and Kataba-no-Ashi (the reed grass that has leaves on only one side of the stem).
Chimanji Temple located in Kawane-Honcho, Haibara-gun, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic temple of the Soto sect Buddhism. The principal object of worship are Hasso Shakamuni Nyorai (the eight aspects of Shakamuni), Hokan Shakamuni Nyorai (crowned Shakamuni), Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) and Yakuyoke Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (life prolonging Jizo).
According to the temple record, it originates in a hermitage built by Kochi, a second generation student of Priest Ganjin, in the Nara period (710-794). Some say that it was founded as an attached temple of Chimanji Temple in Shimada City to teach priests of the Tendai sect. After the mid-Heian period, it was flourished as a training ashram for mountain practitioners. In 1491, the temple sect was changed to the Soto sect and a Zen monk Kaifu Keimon of Dokeiin Temple in Suruga province was invited as the first resident priest of the new temple. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the temple was revered by the Imagawa and Tokugawa clans.
Located in a scenic place with refreshing air, the temple is proud of its fine groves in the precinct including ten cedar trees of 800 to 1,200 years old, which are nationally designated Natural Monuments.
Chizenji Temple worshipping Benzaiten is located on Awajishima Island. Benzaiten is the Japanese name of the goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of wisdom and performing art and one of Shichifukujin (Sevn Gods of Fortune) in Japan. The temple belongs to Shingon Sect and the Sango (the name of the mountain in which it is located) is Daiko-zan. The time of its establishment is unknown, but its history is as long as its earliest record can be found in a copied sutra “Dainehan-kyo” written during the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392). The main hall was built in the middle of the Edo period, where the statues of Dainyorai and Benzaiten are located. The temple is one of the Awaji Shichifukujin Pilgrimage temples and visited by as many as a hundred thousand pilgrims during the year. Especially during the winter there is a day when more than 2,000 pilgrims visit the temple. On the first prayer day to Benzaiten on January 7 and at the ritual of Sentai Jizo Nagashi (the floating of the talisman representing Jizo) held on August 23, a lot of pious visitors come to dedicate their prayers.
“Meno Beach” is another name for Motochi Beach, which is located in Kafuka-mura, Rebun-cho on Rebun Island in Hokkaido. As rude ores of agate are washed ashore, it is called Meno (agate) Beach. The beach is across the island from the village of Kafuka, the main settlement on the east coast, but there are also a lot of houses standing side by side near Meno Beach. As there is a bed rock of agate offshore, a large ore of agate is sometimes found when the sea is rough. Along the beach rises a huge rock with a height of 50 m. It is called Jizo Rock because it looks like a Jizo joining his hands in prayer. As Jizo Rock is said to have a power to bring good fortune in study and marriage, a lot of people come to worship it and leave money in the chap of the rock.
Daikoji (Sadowara-cho, Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture) is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Soto sect. It was founded in 1335 by the Zen priest Gakuo Choho with the patronage of the 4th provincial lord, Tajima Sukefusa. Then in the Edo period (1603-1868), the temple was protected by the domain lords, the Shimazu clan, being enfeoffed with the territory of 75 koku of rice, and reached the height of prosperity.
It was during this period when the renowned Zen monk Kogetsu, who was born in the local village of Sadowara, became the 42nd chief priest of the temple and was actively engaged in missionary work for the local commoners. He is called the restorer of Daikoji Temple.
The statue of Monju Bosatsu sitting atop a roaring lion and guarded by four warriors was carved by a Buddhist sculptor Koshun in 1348. The statue is designated as a national Important Cultural Property. The temple possesses a lot of historic documents collected under the policy of the chief priest Kogetsu. They are now being used as precious data of the history.
Seki-juku, with “seki” meaning checkpoint, was a post town with a checkpoint as the name suggests. However, it was not a checkpoint in Edo period, but was built in 672 at the time of Jinshin War. It was known as Suzuka no Seki at that time and was referred to as one of Three Great Checkpoints in ancient Japan, along with Arachi in Echizen and Fuwa in Minou. The checkpoints were abolished in 789.
During the Middle Ages, under the control of Seki Clan, the town developed around Jizou-in Temple first as a temple town and later prospered as a post town.
In 1601 (Edo period), Tokugawa government brought back the checkpoint system and Seki-juku became the 47th post town starting from Shinagawa-juku, covering the present areas of Kizaki, Nakamachi and Shinjo in Seki Town, Kameyama, Mie Prefecture. The area is the only post town along Fifty-three Sations of the Toukaidou where stores and houses from ancient times still remain intact. Since it was designated as an Important Cultural Buildings Preservation District in 1984, the town has been reinventing itself utilizing and preserving unique local historical assets.
Seki-juku post town consist of four boroughs each with unique characteristics; Kizaki, where a line of low rise housing exists: Nakamachi with “honjin” (inns for lords and samurai) , “hatago” (inns for general people) and wholesalers gathered: Shinjo, an area in front of Jizou-in Temple: Kitaura where there are many temples and shrines.