Zozo-ji was the umpteenth temple during my week and a half in Japan. Just when I thought I was starting to lose interest, the rows and rows of bald child-like statuettes caught my attention. These figures, called Jizo statues represent the souls of unborn children in Japan.
It’s a tradition that helps parents cope with the loss of losing a child or miscarriage. Some of these statutes are adorned in miniature sweaters and hats. It’s meant to keep the deceased and unborn children warm in their afterlife. Sadly, others look like they have been neglected for a while.
The Jizo statues line the side of the Zozo-ji temple and can be found in many other temples and cemeteries across the country. In traditional Japanese Buddhist teachings, they are the protectors of children and unborn babies. It is believed that Jizo, protector of children, travelers and women, sneaks children into the afterlife in the sleeves of his robe.
Similar to the Senso-ji, which sits in the foreground of the Tokyo Skytree, Zozo-ji sits in the foreground of the Tokyo Tower and is less than 10 minutes away by foot. Like many places in Japan, the country has a beautiful way of harmonizing the new and old so both are appreciated in their own way.