O-Jizō-san and the souls of childen

O Jizo and the babies

When I visited the Ruriji temple in Hyogo, a series of paintings depicting the passage of souls after death was being exhibited. One of the images showed O-Jizō-san by the Sai beach on the Sanzu no Kawa (River of Three Crossings).



In the book “Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan” (1894), Lafcadio Hearn reproduces the  story of O-Jizō-san and the souls of childen:

“…‘Now there is a wasan of Jizo, says Akira’, taking from a shelf in the temple alcove some much-worn, blue-covered Japanese book. ‘A wasan is what you would call a hymn or psalm. This book is two hundred years old. It is called Sai-no-Kawara-kuchi-zu-sami-no-den, which is, literally, The Legend of the Humming of the Sai-no-Kawara. And this is the wasan.’ And he reads me the hymn of Jizo — the legend of the murmur of the little ghosts, the legend of the humming of the Sai-no-

Kawara, rhythmically, like a song:
‘Not of this world is the story of sorrow.
The story of the Sai-no-Kawara,
At the roots of the Mountain of Shide;
Not of this world is the tale; yet ’tis most pitiful to hear.
For together in the Sai-no-Kawara are assembled
Children of tender age in multitude,
Infants but two or three years old,
Infants of four or five, infants of less than ten:
In the Sai-no-Kawara are they gathered together.
And the voice of their longing for their parents,
The voice of their crying for their mothers and their fathers
– “Chichi koishi! Haha koishi!” –
Is never as the voice of the crying of children in this world,
But a crying so pitiful to hear
That the sound of it would pierce through flesh and bone.
And sorrowful indeed the task which they perform.
Gathering the stones of the bed of the river,
Therewith to heap the tower of prayers.
Saying prayers for the happiness of father, they heap the first tower;
Saying prayers for the happiness of mother, they heap the second tower;
Saying prayers for their brothers, their sisters, and all whom they
loved at home, they heap the third tower.
Such, by day, are their pitiful diversions.
But ever as the sun begins to sink below the horizon,
Then do the Oni, the demons of the hells, appear,
And say to them:
What is this that you do here?
Lo! your parents still living in the Shaba-world
Take no thought of pious offering or holy work
They do nought but mourn for you from the morning unto the evening.
Oh, how pitiful! alas! how unmerciful!
Verily the cause of the pains that you suffer
Is only the mourning, the lamentation of your parents.
And saying also, “Blame never us!”
The demons cast down the heaped-up towers,
They dash the stones down with their clubs of iron.
But lo! the teacher Jizo appears.
All gently he comes, and says to the weeping infants:
Be not afraid, dears! be never fearful!
Poor little souls, your lives were brief indeed!
Too soon you were forced to make the weary journey to the Meido,
The long journey to the region of the dead!
Trust to me! I am your father and mother in the Meido,
Father of all children in the region of the dead.
And he folds the skirt of his shining robe about them;
So graciously takes he pity on the infants.
To those who cannot walk he stretches forth his strong shakujo;
And he pets the little ones, caresses them, takes them to his loving bosom
So graciously he takes pity on the infants.’…”

Some statues of O-Jizō-san and the children.

Click on the images to enlarge them


I will post later the other images on the Ruriji temple exhibition and some related comments. To receive notifications about future posts, subscribe to the email list or follow Mythic Japan on Facebook.

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