I happened to pass by Tokyo Tower the other day, and though I hadn’t planned to, I ended up wandering around the area, lost in thought as I enjoyed the great fall weather and the few hours I had to myself while E was at preschool. I didn’t have my big DSLR with me, but I did have my smaller mirrorless camera so I was able to get some shots of my brief walk.
After snapping a few shots of Tokyo Tower from below, I started walking towards the station and caught sight of row upon row of small stone statues that were adorned with clothing and decorated with toys. They were beautiful, but also a bit mysterious.
What were these statues? And why were they showered with toys?
Curious, I decided to make a brief stop to get a closer look at these beautiful statues.
The temple was Zojoji, a Buddhist temple founded in 1393. It’s known as the grave site of six of the fifteen Tokugawa Shoguns.
The graves of the Shoguns were closed when I went, but I did get to see the little statues that had me intrigued. There were just so many of them.
The statues were beautiful, but I didn’t know what they were for. And I couldn’t shake this strange feeling that I had while being surrounded by them. It was like I was being watched by rows and rows of sad children.
And it turns out, my instinct was spot on.
I did a quick search on my iPhone and learned that this garden of statues is known as the Unborn Children Garden. The statues represent unborn (miscarried, aborted and stillborn) children. Parents choose a statue in this garden and decorate it with clothing and toys for their lost child. These statues, or Jizo, are affiliated with protection, and it is believed that presenting the Jizo with gifts will ensure that your child will be protected in the afterlife.
So many souls, loved and remembered.
Just thinking about it made my eyes swell up. I stood there alone, surrounded by these little statues representing lives that could have been. As I listened to the leaves rustling in the cool autumn breeze, I felt the sudden urge to hug my little girl and bury my face in her hair.
I bid farewell to the rows of children and went on my way, back to reality. To pick up my girl and hold her in my arms.