Tuesday, October 16, 2012

illustration friday (water)

Mizuko (literally: water child) are unborn babies that have died as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. Mizuko kuyō is a Japanese Buddhistic* memorial rite practiced for the peace of the souls of these babies. The reasons many people in Japan request this rite may include parental grief, desire to comfort the baby's soul, or fear of retribution from the baby's spirit.

The mizuko are often represented by small stone statues of Jizo (the guardian of children and travelers), accessorized with various bits of clothing and toys. These commonly include bibs, caps, and pinwheels to keep the souls warm and entertained. Bibs and caps will often be red, perhaps because red looks warm, or perhaps because the Japanese word for red (aka) is part of the common Japanese word for baby (akachan).

If you live or travel in Japan, you are sure to have come across these stone statues along the roadside, in both urban and rural areas. They often sit alone under a small roofed shelter at a crossroad, but they can also be in groups of hundreds or thousands, especially in the courtyards of temples that specialize in Mizuko kuyō rites.

*the reason I call the rite "Buddhistic" rather than "Buddhist," is because there is some question as to its place in historical Buddhism.


  1. Thks for the explanation, I had no idea.

  2. Such a peaceful image, the stone so watery soft, each inward-looking statue in company, but seeming unaware of the others around it. Comfort - seeking to find, to give, to share - made visible for self reassurance, and left standing. Lots of room for mulling here, Debbie. Thanks again for a great image and a thoughtful post.

  3. This is deeply touching, Debbie. Your image is so beautiful.

  4. what a moving ritual, I'd never heard of that before.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Yes, rowans are the same as mountain ash, though not to be confused with the true ash!

  5. It makes me sad but it is peaceful and moving.