Jizo Bosatsu is a Buddist deity loved by the Japanese people. He takes care of the souls of unborn children and is a protector of children and travellers. In Japan, Jizo statues can be found in many places; along rural roadsides, outside ancient Buddist temples, lining cemeteries, even on busy street corners. Sometimes people who have lost a baby will dress Jizo statues in bibs, hats, or robes to give warmth to Jizo in the hope that he will do the same for the babies he is protecting. The garments are often, but not always, red, a colour that represents safety and protection, and are hand knitted or sewn.
New York Times writer, Angela Elson, first came across Jizo when she and her husband, Brady, were living in Japan. Years later when the couple experienced a miscarriage they remembered Jizo and got a statue of their own.
"Brady and I grieved the baby in ways that were different but equally sad. One thing we both understood perfectly, though, was Jizo — why we had to search for the right kind of red yarn, how I had to crochet the smallest hat and coat three times to get it right. It was nice for us to have something to do, a project to finish in lieu of the baby I failed to complete. When Jizo was dressed, Brady complimented my handiwork. “Where should we put him? In the yard?” “Maybe in a few days,” I balked, stationing the statue on our dining room table where I could pat him on the head on my way to the kitchen. I talked to him. Sometimes I kissed him when no one was looking, or I took him with me to the living room to watch TV
I’m not sure if this is the correct way to weather a miscarriage, or even the right way to Jizo. I don’t know how long I’m supposed to crochet new outfits: maybe until I don’t feel the need to, or maybe forever. I do know that like those [Japanese] parents haunting Mount Koya, Brady and I will always think of that baby who never was. We’ll leave pieces of our love for him wherever we go, hoping Jizo will deliver them to wherever he is.”
You can read Angela's full article here.
Chaves, Amy. (2012). A guide to Jizo, guardian of travelers and the weak. Japan Times. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2012/03/31/our-lives/a-guide-to-jizo-guardian-of-travelers-and-the-weak/#.Xf_ahhczai4
Blair, Olivia. (2017). JIZO STATUES: THE JAPANESE STATUES GIVING CLOSURE TO WOMEN WHO HAVE MISCARRIED; One Japanese tradition is starting to spread in the west. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/jizo-statues-the-japanese-statues-giving-closure-to-women-who-have-miscarried-a7519416.html
Elson, Angela. (2017). The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/well/family/the-japanese-art-of-grieving-a-miscarriage.html?_r=0