Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

The Japanese term mizuko (literally, “water child”) refers to a deceased baby, infant, or fetus. This includes stillborn and miscarried children as well as those who died by abortion, and in some cases also applies to babies that die shortly after birth. A funerary rite, called mizuko kuyō, is often performed on behalf of these children, and Japan has many shrines honoring mizuko–mostly in combination with statues of Jizō, a kind incarnation of the Buddha who is considred the patron and protector of mizuko. 

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Ryozen Kannon: A Monument for the Unknown Soldiers of the Pacific War

The Ryozen Kannon memorial stands in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, near a cluster of well-known temples (including Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji).  In return for a small entry fee (about $3), visitors can enter the memorial and place a stick of incense in the burner on behalf of the unknown soldiers. If you visit Higashiyama, be sure to include a stop at the Ryozen Kannon (and, for those who collect goshuin, remember to have your book stamped inside the hall).

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The Blue Dragon of Kiyomizu-dera

Visitors to Kiyomizu-dera (a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan) may notice a large dragon statue standing guard in front of the temple – specifically, at the base of the stairs leading up to the temple’s West Gate and Three-Story Pagoda.   The blue dragon, or seiryuu, is honored at Kiyomizu-dera; at special ceremonies in March, April, and September, special prayers are said and the dragon’s image is carried around the temple (in a parade and worship event known as Seiryuue). Although known as a goddess of compassion, Kannon is also considered a strong protector of the weak (especially children) and

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A Visit to Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto, Japan)

Kiyomizu-dera (more formally, Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera) is a Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple lies in Higashiyama, on the slopes of Mount Otowa, and has a beautiful view of the former Japanese capital: Originally founded during the 8th century, Kiyomizu-dera derives its name from a famous waterfall on the temple grounds. (Kiyomizu means “pure water” in Japanese.) Visitors can ladle water from the falls while praying for blessings and purification. (The day I visited, the line was short–only about 35 minutes–but I decided to forego the blessing in favor of spending more time on the temple grounds.) Kiyomizu-dera was a popular pilgrimage site during the Heian period, and

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