immortal wishes:
labor and transcendence
on a Japanese sacred mountain

Ellen Schattschneider

Duke University Press (2003)


Teaching Resources

Sacred Beings

Jizo Veneration in Aomori Prefecture


Like Kannon, Jizo is an important bodhisattva, an incarnation of the Buddha that has voluntarily renounced Enlightenment in order to guide lesser beings through the realms of creation. Jizo is thought to take particular pity on the souls of dead children, who wander as lost souls (munebotoke) between the worlds. Jizo usually is depicted in the form of a bald Buddhist monk with simple features; at times dead children are shown climbing up him or seeking shelter from demons in his robes.

Jizo statues are ubiquitous in the Tsugaru area and in Aomori Prefecture. They are often dedicated, as a form of kuyo (memorialization) in memory of deceased relations, or as vicarious, prophylactic talismans, protecting living children and family descendants. The spirit of Jizo may also be invoked in the dedication of bride doll figurines (hannoyomeningyo), ritually deployed to memorialize the souls of children and other unmarried persons.

Among the most important sites of Jizo veneration in Aomori Prefecture are two "sainokawara" locales (riverbanks on the underworld river of Sai, where lost souls are believed to wander): Osorezan on the Shimokita Peninsula and Kawakura Jizo-Do in Nakasato in central Tsugaru.

Although there are no Jizo figurines at Akakura Mountain Shrine, there are many jizo at the closely-lnked Osihi shrine, just down the road.


Jizo and pile of stones on the beach at Osorezan



Internet Resources on Jizo

On Jizo in Aomori Prefecture:


Jizo: Japanese Buddhist Corner

For a more general discussion of Jizo and memorialization (kuyo) in Japan, by Elaine Martin, see:


Website developed by Ellen Schattschneider (Brandeis University)