Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva mainly present in the Buddhism of Eastern Asia. In Japan he is known as Jizo or Ojizō-sama. He is very popular. His statues can often be seen in shrines, along roads and at cemeteries.

For many Japanese people he is the guardian of children, especially those who died before their parents. According to the ancient Japanese mythology souls of such children can not pass the Sanzu river (Sanzu-no-kawa) or River of Three Crossings. Jizo is worshipped in the ritual of mizuko kuyō ("offering to water children") which is held for still born children, miscarried or aborted fetuses. Since 1970s there are special shrines for this ritual.

Jizo statues
Jizo statues

The mizuko kuyō is performed to give some comfort to the grieving parents and soul of the fetus. Details of the ceremony today vary a lot from shrine to shrine. It is possible to buy small Jizo statues. The statue is sometimes dressed in red baby bib and hat. Little toy is often put as an offering. The statues are placed next to the shrine. Beside them people sometimes put a small pile of stones. It is believed that they can shorten the suffering in the underworld.

Jizo is not only worshipped when the baby is dead. Parents also put offerings to the Jizo when their child has recovered from some illness. The Jizo is one of the dōsojin or protector of travellers. People believe that he protects firefighters too.