Sorry things have been too quiet for too long at Wild in Japan. I’ll save you the excuses and get on with this quick post.
Unfortunately, between me starting this post and now that series of large earthquakes struck Kumamoto and Oita, leaving dozens dead and thousands homeless. My thoughts are with the people trying to put their lives back together.
I’ve actually had this on the back-burner for several years, waiting for a suitable opportunity to photograph and research some statues.
Well, I have changed schools, and in an attempt to avoid the heavy traffic of route 50, my chosen route takes me past this particular statue.
Apparently, this Jizo was erected in 1685, some 20 years after the land development of the village of Mizuno began. It is thought that the statue is to the placate the souls of those who died during that period. Some also claim that it cures children’s illnesses.
This particular Jizo has the names of 48 people associated with its construction carved into it. Interestingly, the descendants of some of those very people work the very same fields that they opened some 350 years ago.
Many Jizo statues have a nickname, and this one is no exception – it has no fewer than three names: Bake-Jizo (化け地蔵), Yonaki-Jizo (夜泣き) and Bakku-Jizo (抜苦地蔵).
The most common of these is Bake-Jizo – basically “Ghostly Jizo” – and it is said to have stemmed from a prank involving a face carved into a watermelon with a candle placed inside and strung from a tree near the statue. A traveller at night reported seeing the ghostly spectacle and the name stuck.
Others, however, say the name simply comes from its remote location. I’m also willing to believe it may simply be a corruption of Bakku-Jizo (bakku being derived from the Buddhist term bakku-yoraku (抜苦与楽) about the release from suffering).
Keeping my eyes open on the trip、 I noticed at least three stone markers on the same stretch of road. The area also has several private cemeteries, so it is a haven for stone monument fans. Pheasants are also sometimes to be seen, and I have spotted a male there several times in the last week or so.
Finally, I was recently stopped by police in that area. A patrol car passed me and pulled me over. The officer asked for some ID. When I asked what was up, he replied that it was a security measure for the local transformer station ahead of the G7 Summit – several hundred kilometres away!!