Jizo : Earth Treasure;Womb of the Earth

The Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha arrived in Japan with Buddhism in the eighth century but became exceedingly popular in the tenth. At some point, the female Ksitigarbha transformed into the male Jizo and began manifesting very differently. Jizo is no remote Bodhisattva but a beloved spirit of folk religion, guardian of the population at large. Although scholars and devout traditional Buddhists consider Jizo just a local name for Ksitigarbha, this is not necessarily a connection recognized by all devotees. Many assume that Jizo is an indigenous Japanese Kami.

Jizo is an excellent patron for those who fear spirits: kind and loving and never, ever frightening not even to the most timid children. If someone is described as having a ‘Jizo face’, it means they’re full of smiles.

Jizo is the guardian of dead souls and the special protector of children. He may be petitioned for fertility and spiritual, emotional or physical healing. He protects against all forces of evil, regardless of origin. Jizo is a font of mercy and compassion but Jizo lacks fear. Invoke him against your worst nightmare; Jizo will not be cowed in the least.

Jizo’s unique sacred function is to save souls of children from the less pleasant aspects of the Afterlife. Jizo patrols the gateways to the Realms of Death, keeping his eye peeled for any babies or children. When he spies them, he quickly slips them into his long sleeves in order to hide them from Demons out trawling for souls. Jizo is also invoked to protect living children, guarding against all dangers and healing any illness.

Jizo also protects against fire; locates lost valuables and may be invoked to interpret dreams and omens.


Bodhisattva; Bosatsu


Everyone, living or dead but especially children and babies; pregnant women;fire fighters; fortune tellers; mediums; travelers and pilgrims


Jizo appears in different forms in his quest to alleviate suffering but most frequently as a monk. Jizo is usually but not always male. (At least one path, Koyasu Jizo or Birth-Giving Jizo, appears in female form.) Jizo may also manifest in the form of a cat.

Jizo is the protector of anyone who feels pain. Anyone can request and receive his help and blessings. However, his special role is as guardian of babies including those stillborn and those who were never born; whether because of abortion or miscarriage. Jizo does not judge or even distinguish between the two situations. His sacred purpose is to relieve suffering, not increase it. Any mother may request his protection for the child she has lost for any reason.


Jizo’s traditional Japanese iconography is unique, easily recognizable and does not resemble that of Ksitigarbha. (Images of Ksitigarbha may be used to represent Jizo but Jizo does not represent Ksitigarbha.) The most basic image is a simple geometric depiction of Jizo as a bald monk; eyes often closed in meditation; his hands may be held in prayer. Some Jizo statues resemble small, round children. Others are extremely phallic in appearance.

Mizuko Jizo is a path of Jizo usually portrayed as a monk holding a baby in his arms and with at least one small child at his feet, clutching his robe. Place this image on a home altar or in a cemetery to serve as a baby’s memorial (born or unborn.) Mizuko literally translates as ‘Water Baby’

Sacred animals:

Cat, wolf


6 (representing the six realms of incarnation and indicating that Jizo can help anyone trapped anywhere on the Wheel of Life.)

Traditional Buddhist cosmology divides existence into six realms:

The Hell Realms (the Afterlife where dead souls are purified)

The Hungry Ghost Realm

The Animal Realm

The Realm of the Spirits (understood as Demi-Gods; Ashuras or similar)

The Realm of the Deities (Gods or Devas)

The Human Realm


Small pieces of children’s clothing are attached to statues of Jizo to help him care for souls of children whose clothes have been taken by Datsueba.


the 24th day of the 6th month of the Japanese lunar calendar. His feast is associated with many rituals especially those associated with the dead:

• It is an auspicious day for Séances or any sort of divination to contact the dead

• Climb Japan’s sacred Mount Osore (“Mount Fear”), a dormant volcano, allegedly a gateway to the Realm of Death and the location of many statues of Jizo. Offer each statue special rice dumplings. Women who have lost children heap small stones in the shape of a stupa (a mound-like shape).


Jizo has many shrines throughout Japan as well as in Hawaii. However, any statue of Jizo is innately a shrine, particularly larger statues. Small stone statues of Jizo placed at crossroads and boundaries serve as roadside shrines


Jizo is usually venerated with one solitary image or in groups of six images (howeversome shrines contain huge groupings of Jizo statues). His image is frequently placed outside to serve as a guardian but may be maintained on a home altar, too.


Incense; rice; tea; water; stones; good deeds; charitable acts; red bibs or baby bonnets attached to his image; vows traditionally involve a pilgrimage to his shrine.


  • Amida Buddha
  • Datsueba
  • Enma
  • Inari
  • Kings of Hell
  • Ksitigarbha
  • Kwan Yin

Jizo is the spirit whose statue is desecrated at the beginning of the Japanese horror movie, The Locker. Although he is not named, images of Jizo are ever present in the Japanese anime series, Hell Girl. His image provides solace and protection in the 1989 Japanese film, Black Rain.


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.