The Six Jizō Bosatsu of Edo (江戸六地蔵) (Engl.)

A prilgim’s way to ancient copper Jizō sculptures across Tōkyō

Eine deutsche Version dieses Artikels finden Sie hier.
A German version of this posting you can find here.

In old Edo (江戸 / えど), in the early 18th century, to be precise, six Jizō statues were erected on the city’s premises – five of which have survived wars and natural disasters. It is a bit weird, but these statues are among the spots in the city most worth seeing, but hardly anybody knows them. Which make them the perfect candidate for this website. If you check English sources on the internet, you’ll find out that they are scarce (not to mention their practical non-existence in German).

Just in case you don’t know much about Buddhism: Jizō Bosatsu (地蔵菩薩 / じぞうぼさつ) are a kind of “Japanese version” of a Bodhisattva, a being on its way to enlightenment, but also supporting and assisting all those who are longing for enlightenment. In Japan Jizō Bosatsu are the ones “in charge” of children – especially children that have died before their parents (i.e.  stillborn children, miscarriages and abortions).

With that in mind, the story of the six Jizō Bosatsu of Edo is easier understood (and – as already indicated above – don’t be confused if you have discovered just five images above – just keep on reading…). This story is being told as follows (based on documentation said to be found inside one of the statues – the one on the grounds of the Taisō temple (太宗寺 / たいそうじ) :

The Jizō monk Shōgen (正元 / しょうげん), who lived in Fukagawa (深川 / ふかがわ), in today’s Kōtō district (江東区 / こうとうく), was plaqued by an incurable decease. But after he had prayed to a Jizō Bosatsu together with his parents in order to beseech healing, he was healed miraculously. Reason enough to see to it, that also Edo got what Kyōto already had: its “Six Jizō Bosatsu”. In 1706 Shōgen started to collect money for this purpose. He seems to have been rather successful with this task, as the statues were built in a very elaborate fashion and using costly material (copper). In their original appearance they were even more gorgeous than today, as they were all gold plated. The caster Ōta Suruganokami Fujiwara Shōgi (太田駿河守藤原正儀 / おおたするがのかみふじわれらしょうぎ) (other sources speak of Ōta Suruganokami Masayoshi / 太田駿河守正義 / おおたするがのかみまさよし) in Kandanabe (神田鍋 / かんだなべ) in today’s Kanda district of Tōkyō (神田区 / かんだく) was commissioned. Within only 12 years six extraordinary copper statues were created. The first of which was already complete two years after Shōgen had started his fundraising. It goes without saying that also in those days people didn’t give money away in utter altruism. “Do good and be sure to make it known” … might have been the motto for some of the donors. In any case, all their names are incised in the statues. So, don’t be surprised if you find the Jizō covered by delicate inscriptions all over their surfaces.

The remaining statues of Jizō Bosatsu are all designated as cultural property of the city of Tōkyō, as they are rather lavish examples of copper statues (銅造地蔵菩薩坐像 / どうぞうじぞうぼさつざぞう) of the middle of the Edo era, and only very few other specimen of that kind exist dating back to those old days.

The temples housing the (originally) six statues were (and are still today) popular stations on a pilgrimage route through Edo, or Tōkyō respectively. So, let’s have a look at those six locations and their statues. And if you don’t visit them all in one long pilgrimage (and even without any religious ambition), take your time and have a look around in their neighbourhoods. I’ve included some hints you may tempt you to go further.

1st Jizō statue

The first of the six Jizō was erected in 1708 at the Honsen temple (品川寺 / ほんせんじ), a temple of the Daigo school of the Shingon Buddhism (真言宗醍醐派 / しんごんしゅうだいごは) in Minami Shinagawa (南品川 / みなみしながわ) in Tōkyō’s Shinagawa ward (品川区 / しながわく), just next to the old Tōkaidō highway(旧東海道 / きゅうとうかいどう).

Size: 2.75 metres. And as such this one is the tallest of the six siblings. Nevertheless, it somehow “looks” smaller than the others, but that might be due to the fact that this is the only one that has to do without headgear.

This is also the first Jizō Bosatsu one visits on the traditional pilgrimage route.

You will be surprised by the impressive neighbourhood of this temple. Here, alongside the old Tōkaidō, quite a number of long-established shops and workshops have been preserved. And if you head north from the Honsen temple, you’ll find a rather large and lavish temple district.

3-5-17 Minami Shinagawa

Next railway station:
Keihin Kyūkō (Keikyū) line (京浜急行電鉄 / けいひんきゅうこうでんてつ), Aomonoyokochō (青物横丁 / あおものよこちょう)

2nd Jizō statue

Erected in 1710 at the Tōzen temple (東禅寺 / とうぜんじ), a temple of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism (曹洞宗 / そうとうしゅう) in Higashi Asakusa (東浅草 / ひがしあさくさ) in Tōkyō’s Taitō ward (台東区 / たいとうく) close to the Ōshū-Kaidō highway (奥州街道 / おうしゅうかいどう), that was founded in 1624 (the temple – not the highway).

Size: 2.71 metres

This is the fourth Jizō Bosatsu one visits on the traditional pilgrimage route.

The temple’s building itself is a rather new one and may – at least at a first glance – lack the traditional style of other temple buildings.

Should you realise the two smaller bronce statues of an elderly couple on the left hand side of the main gate: These are the commemorative statues of Yasube Kimura (木村安浜衛 / きむらやすべえ) and his wife. Kimura, a former samurai, had found a new meaning of life with baking bread, after the samurai system was abolished by the Meiji emperor. He is the founder of Kimuraya Sōhonten Ltd. (株式会社木村屋總本店 / かぶしきがいしゃきむらそうほんてん), a bakery that was founded in Tōkyō in 1869, using bread baking machines and baking bread in the “western style”.

Tōzen-ji (東禅寺)

Tōzen-ji (東禅寺)

If you walk here from the large temple district of Akasuka, you will most likely also pass the Workshops of Miyamoto Unosuke (宮本卯之助 / みやもとうのすけ). Why don’t you have a look!

2-12-13 Higashi Asakusa

Next railway station:
Unfortunately, there is no railway or subway station located closely to the temple. However, if you walk from Asakusa’s large temple district in northern direction, it will take you just about 15 minutes.

3rd Jizō statue

Erected in 1712 at the Taisō temple (太宗寺 / たいそうじ), a temple of the Jōdo school (浄土宗 / じょうどしゅう) in Shinjuku (新宿 / しんじゅく) in Tōkyō’s Shinjuku ward (新宿区 / しんじゅくく) next to the Kōshū-Kaidō highway (甲州街道 / こうしゅうかいどう). In this statue “the printed book of the brief history of the erection of the statues of Edo Six Jizōson” was found, based on which the story of these statues is being told today.

Size: 2.67 metres (consequently the smallest of the six Jizō Bosatsu – but not necessarily the smallest-looking one)

This is the second Jizō Bosatsu one visits on the traditional pilgrimage route.

From here it is just a stone’s throw to one of the largest parks of the city, the Shinjuku Gyoen.

2-9-2 Shinjuku

Next railway station:
Tōkyō Metro Marunouchi line (東京メトロ丸ノ内線 / とうきょうめとろまるのうちせん), Shinjuku Gyoenmae (新宿御苑前 / しんしゅくぎょえんまえ).

4th Jizō statue

Erected in 1714 at the Shinshō temple (真性寺 / しんしょうじ), a temple of the Busan school of  Shingon Buddhism (真言宗豊山派 / しんごんしゅうぶざんは) in Sugamo (巣鴨 / すがも) in Tōkyō’s Toshima ward (豊島区 / としまく), right next to the old Nakansendō highway (旧中山道 / きゅうなかせんどう).

Size: 2.68 metres

This statue is in a rather enviable condition as it had been restored rather recently (2008 to 2010). During these restoration efforts four smaller copper statues of seated Jizō Bosatsu and a number of copper and wooden tablets were found inside the statue – and returned to this place after the restoration had been completed. Also this statue somehow looks much more impressive than its “size” would suggest, even though it’s the second smallest of them all.

This is the third Jizō Bosatsu one visits on the traditional pilgrimage route.

In any case, while in Sugamo don’t miss the Jizō-Dōri (地蔵通り / じぞうどおり), the so-called “Granny’s Harajuku“, a hilariously quirky shopping street that begins right here at the Shinshō temple and streches out north.

3-21-21 Sugamo,

Next railway station:
JR Yamanote line (JR山手線 / JRやまのてせん) or Toei Subway Mita line (都営地下鉄三田線 / とえいちかてつみたせん), Sugamo (巣鴨 / すがも).

5th Jizō statue

Erected in 1717 at the Reigan temple (霊巌寺 / れいがんじ), a temple of the Jōdo school (浄土宗 / じょうどしゅう) in Shirakawa (白河 / しらかわ) in Tōkyō’s Kōtō ward (江東区 / こうとうく), at the Mito-Kaidō highway (水戸街道 / みとかいどう). It is said that there are still traces of the original gold layers visible on the surface of this statue (well, they were not to my eye). Should you get the impression that those Jizō Bosatsu are all the same (an impression that the gallery on top of this posting may have distroyed already), have a closer look at this one! It has longer finger nails and holds its hands in a fashion that clearly differs from those of its “siblings”.

Size: 2.73 metres

This is the fifth Jizō Bosatsu one visits on the traditional pilgrimage route.

Right next to the Reigan temple you find the lovely Fukagawa Edo Museum (深川江戸資料館 / ふかがわえどしりょうかん). And just a few steps away you may be enticed to a visit of the Kiyosumi Teien, one of nicest of the remaining feudal gardens in the city, and one that is not that well known.

1-3-32 Shirakawa

Next railway station:
Tōkyō Metro Hanzōmon line (東京メトロ半蔵門線 / とうきょうめとろはんぞうもんせん) or Toei Subway Ōedo line (都営地下鉄大江戸線 / とえいちかてつおおえどせん) to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa (清澄白河 / きよすみしらかわ).

6th Jizō statue

Erected in 1720 at the Eitai temple (永代寺 / えいたいじ), a temple of the Kōya-san Shingon Buddhism (高野山真言宗 / こうやさんしんごんしゅう) in Tomioka (富岡 / とみおか) in Tōkyō’s Kōtō ward (江東区 / こうとうく), at the Chiba-Kaidō highway (千葉街道 / ちばかいどう).

Size: unknown

This is the temple that housed the sixth and last Jizō Bosatsu enroute the traditional pilgrimage. Unfortunately, this statue was distroyed during the turmoils in the early years of the Meiji restoration and its strong anti-Buddhist movements (last quarter of the 19th century).

Nevertheless, a little detour to this temple is just as worthwhile, because there are two of the most impressive gems of the city’s history just next door::

  • The gorgeous Buddhist temple Fukagawa Fudōdō (深川不動堂 / ふかがわふどうどう) and
  • the no less splendid shrine Tomioka Hachimangū (富岡八幡宮 / とみおかはちまんぐう) – a must for all those who are also interested in Sumō.

1-15-1 Tomioka

Next railway station:
Tōkyō Metro Tōzai line (東京メトロ東西線 / とうきょうめとろとうざいせん) or Toei Subway Ōedo line (都営地下鉄大江戸線 / とえいちかてつおおえどせん), Monzen-Nakachō (門前仲町 / もんぜんなかちょう)


One Response to The Six Jizō Bosatsu of Edo (江戸六地蔵) (Engl.)

  1. […] englische Version dieses Artikels finden Sie hier. An English version of this posting you can find […]

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