Thursday, April 03, 2014

A Roadside Shrine

A more common sight in Japan than even the ubiquitous convenience store is the roadside shrine (Yes, I know, a most bold assertion). Such shrines come in all manner of upkeep and repair. I pass numerous wayside shrines on my commute, most of them tidy and of weathered, untreated wood, and lacking in any ornament or statement of artistic originality.

 Not so this shrine.

The shrine, with its figure of Jizo, bell pull, flowers, and general appearance, is not unlike others I pass on the ride to school.  However, the artist/ builder has let himself go on the "pediment" (What is this part of the shrine called, by the way?), writhing, serpentining figures and all. 

Jizo is the protector of travelers, women in childbirth, and children. According to Buddhist thought, the souls of children who die during childbirth or at a young age are sent to sai no kawara , a dismal place where they must erect piles of stones, which are promptly scattered by demons. Someone has erected such a pile here.