Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oriwatari one thousand jizo

On 4th of April, hubby and I went to see one thousand jizo (sentai jizo in Japanese) on Oriwatari hill in Ouchi town of Akita prefecture. Jizo bosatsu (bodhisattva in Sanskrit/Hindi) is one of the most beloved of all Japanese divinities. Traditionally jizo bosatsu is the guardian of children who died before their parents. However, in modern Japan (since the 1980s), jizo is worshipped as the guardian of the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses. Jizo bosatsu also serves the customary and traditional roles as patron saint of expectant mothers, children, firemen, travelers, pilgrims, and the protector of all beings caught in the six realms of reincarnation. Jizo statues are a common sight in Japan, especially by roadsides and in graveyards. Jizo bosatsu incorporate attributes from both Buddhist traditions as well as from Shinto beliefs.
Although jizo bosatsu is of Indian origin, jizo is revered more widely in Japan, Korea, and China than in India. Jizo bosatsu is known as Ká¹£hitigarbha in Sanskrit/Hindi, which means ‘womb of the earth’. It is also often translated as ‘earth treasury’ or ‘earth store’. Kshitigarbha is one of the four principal bodhisattvas in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. In Japan, Jizo bosatsu first appeared in records of the Nara period (710 to 794 AD), and then spread throughout Japan via the Tendai and Shingon sects.

Oriwatari jizo in Ouchi town is about fifteen minutes car drive from our home. It is on the Iwaya-Iwaki prefectural road. The original Oriwatari enmei (longevity) jizo was built by priest Zezan about two hundred years back. Priest Zezan also built the giant indoor statue of standing Buddha in Akata town, which is only a few kilometers away from Oriwatari jizo. I have written about the giant Buddha of Akata in an earlier post. The original Oriwatari jizo temple is located under a Japanese cedar (sugi in Japanese) tree on a hill in Oriwatari. Another name of this jizo is Ibotori jizo. Hubby and I prayed in front of the jizo for the safety of children and traffic.
Hubby standing at the entrance of Oriwatari enmei jizo temple

Oriwatari enmei jizo temple

Adjacent to the Oriwatari jizo temple was a bell of peace (yasuragi no kane). Kane bell is a huge hemispherical bell, which is struck on the outside with a mallet.
Bell of peace

Next, we climbed up the Oriwatari hill to see the one thousand stone statues of jizo called sentai jizo. These jizo statues lined the entire route up the hill. The statues were erected over a two year period from 1989 to 1990. These statues wore a red bib, representing jizo. It was really nice to see so many cute jizo statues lining the hill.
Hubby standing at the starting point of our climb up the hill

Many jizo statues lined the entire route up the hill

Hubby posing with jizo statues

The hill was rather steep. I was very tired after climbing up about two thirds of the hill.
I am just at the beginning of the climb up the hill. We can see that the hill was very steep.

Somehow we made it to the top of the hill after about 30 minutes of climbing. At the hill top, there was a peace pole called kokyu heiwa kinen no tou. ‘Praying forever for peace’ was written on the pole. Many jizo statues were lined in the front as well as on either side of the peace pole. Hubby and I enjoyed a spectacular view of the nature from the top of the hill.
Peace pole and jizo statues at the top of the hill

Many jizo statues were lined up at the top of the hill

Beautiful scenic view from the top of the hill

After enjoying the panoramic view for several minutes, hubby and I started climbing down the hill. As the hill was very steep, we were very tired by the time we reached half way down the hill. In addition, we were surrounded by very large Japanese cedar sugi trees. During spring season, these trees produce large amounts of pollen, which is known to be a major cause of a type of hay fever called ‘kafunsho’. That day we realized that my hubby is allergic to the sugi tree pollen as his nose started running, and eyes became red and itchy. Hubby literally ran down the hill to avoid the sugi pollen.
We were surrounded by Japanese cedar sugi trees

A close up view of the sugi leaves and ripe female cones

Hubby tired and suffering from kafunsho

By the time I reached down the hill, I saw hubby sitting peacefully on the steps of the place where the bell of peace was installed.
Hubby sitting peacefully on the steps of the bell of peace

On our way back, I saw a very huge advertisement board on the roadside near our home. Next, to this board was a peace pole on which was written ‘may peace prevail on earth’. Hubby was rather amused and jokingly told me that we got a lot of advice about peace within several hours :)
Peace pole next to an advertisement board

Although, hubby was a bit tired due to the hay fever allergy, we both enjoyed our visit to Oriwatari sentai jizo.


its from me said...

Good description, as usual.

Sonal said...

Excellent description Manisha. It is so beautiful and peaceful. You must be enjoying life in Japan. We have a long standing plan to visit Japan sometime. It is so amazing that you and Subbi bhaiya were classmates. Small world!

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks 'its from me' for your comment.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Sonal for your comment. Yeah, the place was very peaceful... Please visit Japan. It is a beautiful country with lots of sight-seeing places...
And the world is very small indeed!

jp said...

As usual, after reading your new post I got a new knowledge on Jizo and Oriwatari and the hay fever allergy to which many of the Japanese people are allergic. Thanks Manisha. Good posting with many beautiful photos. Good journey, well written and conveyed to us.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Jayaprakash for your very nice comment. I had seen Jizo many times but somehow did not know about them until a couple of months back...I was pleasantly surprised to know that its origin is India.
Yeah, now many people are suffering from kafunsho in Akita prefecture. Hopefully it will be fine within 1-2 weeks.