Tokyo Tower and the Unborn Children Garden

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.

Tokyo Tower

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.

Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji

Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji

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.

Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji
Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji
Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji

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.

Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji
Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji
Unborn Children's Garden, Zojoji

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.




Leave a Reply

  1. Makes you want to hold your baby a little bit closer. I feel kind of sad because I was so close to being one of those parents. T’s birthday is always a sad and happy day for me.

    It’s amazing how Japan is still so wrapped in tradition but also so modern!

    Truly amazing shots! Wow that’s a mirror-less camera how do you like it compared to your DSLR?

    • I held E extra tight when I picked her up that afternoon. I always have to remind myself that I’m lucky to have her.

      The mirrorless is a great alternative to carrying around a big camera because it’s so much smaller and lighter (depending on the lens, of course). The image quality is great, but definitely not as good as my big DSLR. I end up sticking the mirrorless in my bag when I’m going out to the city with E and I don’t want to (or can’t really) concentrate on taking pictures but still want to travel with a camera for “just in case” shots. A lot of my photos on this blog are taken with the mirrorless since most of my outings are accompanied by E ;)

  2. Beautifully written, Miwa! I take it granted that I have my kids. I had a miscarriage at the very early stage with my second pregnancy. I can’t imagine what women go through when they experience still birth. It makes me tear up just to think about it. Your photos are gorgeous as always.

    • Thanks, Kaho!

      I can’t imagine losing a child that way, either. It makes me so emotional just thinking about it. I’m so sorry that you experienced the loss of a child as well. It really makes me realize how lucky I am to have my daughter with me, healthy and happy.

      • I think it was meant to be because we got pregnant with our second child 6 months after that and it was a blessing and I would’ve not had her if I didn’t have the miscarriage. I feel fortunate to have all my kids, too!

  3. I walk past this temple fairly regularly. The statues, the trees, the smell of incense … incomparable. PS: Have you gone on a photography course or something? Coz why, woman, your photos are awesome!


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