If you take a stroll along nearly any road in Japan you are likely to periodically spot small stone statues set along the roadside, especially at highway intersections and at the boundaries of small towns and villages. These statues frequently represent the Buddhist divinity Jizo who is the patron god of travelers and pilgrims as well as expectant mothers, children, and even firemen. Jizo is a bodhisattva or one who has achieved enlightenment yet has remained behind to help others along the spiritual path. Jizo has a particular interest in children who may be trapped in hell, and the divinity is thought to often intervene on the their behalf and even hide little ones within the sleeves of his robe when roving demons are on the prowl. Jizo has long been a very popular figure in Japanese Buddhism where he is described as “a friend to all” and “never frightening, even to children”. Though of Indian origin and originally female, Jizo did first appear in Japan during the Nara period (710-94) where her popularity quickly grew and she was soon regarded as the deity of the common people. For various reasons Jizo did eventually transform into a male figure in Japan. However, the divinity’s feminine roots are still evident in the translation of his name which can mean either “womb of the earth” or “earth treasure”. In fact, Jizo is still sometimes found in Japan in female form especially as the Koyasu (child-giving) Jizo. Roadside images of Jizo are often found alone or in groupings of six. The number six being representative of the six realms of reincarnation which encompass all beings trapped within the wheel of life. We can imagine then that to travelers of old Japan the sight of a roadside Jizo must have been a comforting reminder of the deity’s promise to look after and protect any and all on the road to enlightenment.
About the listed item
This authentic Japanese Buddhist Jizo figure is hollow and made of a metal (possibly brass) and depicts the bodhisattva in a standing position holding a staff and religious object and wearing a expression of benevolent calm. The statue dates from the early to mid Showa period (1926-1989) and is in fair condition with no cracks and only a few small chips and scratches and a rich dark patina of age. The statue may have once included a halo which is now missing. This is inferred due to the presence of a small piece of metal at the back where the halo was likely attached (visible and noted in detailed listing photos).
Height: 5.7 inches (14.5 centimeters)
Weight: 4.9 ounces (141 grams)
item code: R1S3-0004458
ship code: L1650