Losing a child can be very painful, even if that child died while still being conceived. That is why in Japan there is a special ritual performed by parents who have lost their child at conception.
Statue of Jizo
When a tragedy strikes and a mother loses her child in conception, it is very difficult to bear, because the lack of a body makes it impossible to hold funerals and other rituals that help reduce grief.
Statues of Jizo, Japan
Jizo Statues in Japan
In cultures around the world, mourning rites and rituals are often designed only for classical deaths. But in Japan, things are different, because there is a special Buddhist mourning ceremony for miscarriages and even for deliberate abortions.
Japanese Jizo statues
The ritual of mourning for unborn children is called mizuko kuyo, which translates as “children's memorial service”. It is practiced in temples throughout Japan as well as in people's private homes.
Japanese ritual – Jizo statues
According to Buddhist belief, a child who dies before he is born cannot go to heaven because he lacked the opportunity to accumulate good karma. So the child is sent to a place called Sai no Kawara, on the banks of the mythical Santsu River, where they must endlessly lay stone towers to atone for the pain they caused their parents.
Ritual in Japan
A deity named Jizo is the guardian of these children. He watches over dead souls, protects them from demons, and helps them make their journey to heaven.
Ritual in Japan – statues Jizo
Parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage or abortion buy Jizo statues so that their dead children can successfully reach the other world.
Jizo statues, photo
Jizo statues are a common sight in temples and can be found in cemeteries and even on roadsides. Usually the stone statues are covered with children's clothing – red scarves and red caps.
Jizo statues, photo 1
Grieving parents also leave toys, candy, and other offerings at the Jizo statues.
Jizo statues, photo 2
Abortion is now legal in Japan. Over 300,000 abortions are performed annually in Tokyo alone.
Jizo statues, photo 3