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Posts tagged jizo

Three Jizo

jizo at Hasedera 長谷寺 kamakura japan

Some jizo (地蔵) hanging out in a garden at Hasedera (長谷寺) in Kamakura…

Happiness jizo


You can seldom go a day in Japan without encountering a jizo, or six, or thousands. They usually are featured wearing a red bib. Jizo are associated with many things including peace, children, and safe traveling.

I spotted this jizo in front of a shop in Kyoto. The sign reads “Yorokobi wa fubyo no kusuri” which means something like “Happiness is the medicine for no sickness.”


“Blessed are they who do not too much fear the gods which they have made!…

Descending the shadowed steps, I find myself face to face with six little statues about three feet high, standing in a row upon one long pedestal. The first holds a Buddhist incense box; the second, a lotsu; the third, a pilgrim’s staff; the fourth, the beads of a Buddhist rosary; the fifth stands in the attitude of prayer, with hands joined; the sixth bears in one hand the shakujou, or mendicant priest’s staff, having six rings attached to the top of it, and in the other hand the mystic jewel, nioi houjiu, by virtue whereof all desires may be accomplished… Archaic, mysterious, but inexplicably touching, all these soft childish faces are.

Roku Jizou — “The Six Jizou” — these images are called in the speech of the people…” (Lafcadio Hearn, 1894, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, pp. 35, 43)

Yanaka 谷中 Tokyo

The Street of a Thousand BlossomsI just started reading a book called The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. I say “just started,” but I’m actually more than half done with it in just two days. It is conjuring up all sorts of memories of my time in Japan.

Even though we only spent a few nights in Yanaka last year, it became a magical place in my head. This probably has more to do with the fact that it was the first place I’d been to in Japan in 20 years than anything else. But maybe, just maybe, Yanaka is a magical place.

Tsukiyama’s book is set mostly in Yanaka (for the first half of the book anyway), and I really feel like I’m there again as I read it. When she speaks of the temple bell (or gong) being stuck 108 times on the New Year (joya no kane) I think back to visiting Zenshoan (全生庵寺院‎) in the Yanaka neighborhood with its gold Buddha and beautiful Zen Buddhist bell pictured below.

Yanaka Zenshoan Bell

The title of the book refers to the path through Yanaka Cemetery (谷中霊園) between Tennoji and Jomyoin (loads of jizo here and all over the streets and temples in the Yanaka area).

I’ll post more once I finish the book in a few days.

Yanaka Zenshoan Jizo

The above photo shows some Yanaka jizo.

Yanaka Ginza

The above picture is of the Yanaka Ginza (谷中銀座) frequently mentioned in the book.

Tennoji Yanaka Buddah Statue

We got lost one time coming out of the wrong exit at Nippori Station and ended up at the large Buddah statue in Tennoji pictured above. We then walked through the Yanaka Cemetery, the “street of a thousand blossoms,” purchased and ate yakiimo (baked sweet potato) from an old man selling them out of the cart he cooked them in, and chatted with some people who were enjoying the evening hanami (the cherry blossom viewing parties; there weren’t yet really many blossoms in Tokyo though).

That experience was, by far, the best time I’ve ever had getting lost.