May 09,2012

I pass by this statue often enough on my goings about around town, and always assumed it was a Jizo because it looks like one. For those who don't spend a lot of time in Japan, or in any case don't give it much thought, the Jizo is the Japanese version of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, who is supposed to watch over children, travelers, and the dead in popular mythology. He has a staff for forcing open the gates of hell and a lamp-like device for illuminating the path to and from. (Which is really interesting, because even though Buddhism denies the existence of an individual soul, it's popularly thought in many Buddhist countries that something the equivalent of a soul passes out of the body at deal and is literally reborn into one of the Six Realms. But I digress.)

So this dude has the staff and the little thing in his hand that looks like it might give off light, and he's also wearing a hat, which I've seen Jizo sometimes do. The hats might have been put there later. They're usually just bald and bare-headed, making them look more like Sariputra in my opinion. It's really hard to tell the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other significant Buddhist figures apart.

It turns out on inspection of the engravings surrounding him that this fellow was the founder of (or maybe just a key figure in the spread of) a uniquely Japanese sect called Shingon-shu. On closer inspection it seems that his staff has some rings in it and the object in his hand is more of a bowl. He is flanked be three infants at his feet and also wears a string of prayer beads about his wrist.

The statue is well tended by a local religious organisation and is frequently decorated with fresh flowers in each of two vases at the base, and an altar with candles at the front with drawers containing implements for lighting them.

You can see it on Route 189 in Tottori, just across the street from Yamada Denki.

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