Jizo on Sado Island

Images of Jizo statues from three temples on Sado Island, Niigata, Japan.
High in the hills on one of the quieter roads of Sado Island in Japan, is Nashinoki Jizo. Apparently, a fisherman found a gathering of many figures of Jizo, a buddhist bodhisattva and his wards, infant children. A small temple was created and parents seeking help for sick children were asked to donate a new statue when they visited. Over the years, the collection grew, as did the vegetation. The grounds are cared for but many faces peer out from between leaves. In another hillside location with more statues is the oldest temple on the island, Chokokuji, established in the 9th century. My third source is on the extreme northern tip of the island, facing the ocean: a cave known as the legendary Sai No Kawara, a limbo that houses children who have died before their parents.
One fascination for me was the way in which the figures at Nashinoki Jizo, the largest collection, had evolved into accidental groupings. Many were in different states of erosion from shiny new ceramic to faceless round stones. Sizes and facial expressions were often very different and their combinations created peculiar gatherings of humanoid figures: sometimes lined up and often in disarray. Like groups of people, some looked very similar and others did not seem to belong together. Some appeared to huddle up close, others faced opposite directions and a few were flat on their back, front, or even upside down. Regardless of their origins and link with Jizo, these gatherings, of mostly smiling figures, seemed to me symbolic of humanity in all its bizarre diversity. Occasionally, here and there, a blissful Buddha stood out from the crowd.
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