Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Mystery of the tiny Buddha (Jizō)

Walking down the Kodaira Green Road the other day, I discovered a tiny Buddha (Ksitigarbha) statue, right (called Jizō or Ojizō-sama in Japanese) hidden in a crevice at the base of a large tree (shown left). In Japan, Jizō statues are rather a common sight on roadsides, mountain paths, temple grounds, or graveyards. Since they are traditionally seen as the guardian of children, in particular children who died before their parents (including stillborn, miscarried, or aborted children), they are often decorated with red bibs and surrounded by offerings of children's toys or sweets. The picture below shows a group of Jizō wearing such garb on Mount Takao (rather mysteriously arranged behind a line of the Seven Lucky Gods or shichifukujin =七福神). In the case of the "tiny Buddha", candies and small flowers, such as daisies and dandelions, have been placed next to the figurine by passers-by who have noticed the statue.

The tree itself is a rather special one, one of a hundred trees selected as an "old tree of historical interest" (meiboku =名木) to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Kodaira City (see plaque left). These are listed on two wonderful maps available here. This specific tree (No. 3) is a Konara-oak which was apparenty chosen because the oak is the symbol of the city and also because it is a giant tree (kyoboku =巨木) and an old tree (koboku =古木). As discussed in an earlier post, old trees are often considered to house spirits which might provide a clue to the reason for the Buddha's presence? If any readers can shed any light on the mystery of the tiny figure, I'd love to hear from you!