Folk Beliefs in Modern Japan
[Table of Contents]

Wayside Shrines at Urban Train Stations: Religion at the CrossroadsI


1. Introduction: An Ethnological Approach to Urbanization

My first research on the Kitamuki ("North-Facing") Jizô in the Umeda district of Osaka's Kita-ku was prompted by the opportunity I had to participate in a religious survey of the same district initiated by Fujii Kenji (then departmental assistant at the Department of Religious Studies, Tokyo University) and others in 1987.II At the time, Fujii was engaged in a survey of religious conditions in Tokyo's urban Ginza district, and the Umeda district of Osaka was selected in order to provide a ground for comparison with a similar urban area in Kansai, Japan's western region. As part of the project, I had responsibility primarily for studying temples, wayside Jizô shrines, and other similarly Buddhist-related institutions. My own personal interest was in studying the kind of changes which had occurred to forms of worship and religious groups in response to local changes accompanying the redevelopment of urban areas.

Following conclusion of the research project, I continued to undertake oral interviews with residents, local community organizations, leaders of lay religious service associations (hôsankai[Glossary: hosankai]), and intendant priests regarding three Jizô shrines of the Umeda district (these included the Kitamuki Jizô, the Umeda Jizô, and the Enmei Jizô). I announced some of my findings, although they dealt only with my interviews regarding and observation of the Jizô-bonIII festival celebrated in late August.

In the Buddhist dictionary Bukkyô daijiten, the festival of Jizô-bon is described as (1) the festive feast day (ennichi[Glossary: ennichi])IV of Jizô observed on August 24 during the bon season in Japan's Kinki regionV; (2) involving the offering of ornaments to images of Jizô worshiped in temples or at small wayside shrines; (3) accompanied by celebrations involving children; and (4) featuring the performance of Buddhist hymns, recitation of the "one-million nembutsu rosary," and the observance of other Buddhist ceremonies. My oral interviews with residents in the Umeda district tended to evoke responses suggesting that the festival was originally devoted to a tutelary deity of children, but that there were few children anymore; others emphasized the community-centered nature of the rites while simultaneously pointing out that this aspect had been declining in recent years. Unfortunately, it has not been sufficiently noted that this rite--originally a local characteristic of the Umeda district--has been attracting many worshipers from outside the community itself.

The redevelopment of the area around Japan Railway's Osaka Station can be viewed as a change further enhancing the "urban" character of the city's districts. With sharply rising land values, the limited land space has been forced to yield higher levels of density and profitability, making the district unsuitable for use as a residential area, and leading to the exodus of most residents to suburban housing districts lying along the commuter rail lines. Such changes have resulted in the weakening of Umeda's communal solidarity, and the Jizô worship observed within the district has lost much of its former nature as a communal faith.

At the same time, the new urban development has transformed the Umeda district into a terminal-station complex characterized by the temporary influx of large numbers of commuters on a daily basis. This, in turn, has resulted in the increase of visits to the district's Jizô shrines and temples by non-residents of the local area, and thus stimulated the level of religious activity there. Of the three Jizô temples in the Umeda district, these changes are most apparent at the Kitamuki Jizô.

The simple and typical analysis to the effect that "rites founded on the communal solidarity of residents of a region have, as the result of urbanization and a loss of that communalism, been transformed into more individualistic supplications" is, in one sense, almost too typical. The orthodox method of fieldwork in folklore studies involves the undertaking of "oral interviews with the people actually observing rites in the locale," a practice based on the assumption that the rites start and end with the local community. Such survey methods inevitably focus on the local community which observes (or observed) the rites, and insofar as members of the local community consider the rites to have a communal nature, any "change" in those rites can be recognized only as a decline. Such traditional methods are thus ill-suited for analyzing an example such as that presented by Kitamuki Jizô, where religious activities are characterized by the gathering of large numbers of worshipers from outside the community.1

In this essay, I focus, instead, on the religious activities at Kitamuki Jizô undertaken by worshipers coming from outside the community, with the aim of describing those religious rites which are not tied to the "local community" in the narrow sense.

2. The History and Current Condition of Kitamuki Jizô

The shopping mall known as Hankyû Sanban-gai is located in the northwest section of a commercial district which encompasses the Hankyû Umeda train station, and a block known as Jizô Yokochô is located on the eastern edge of Sanban-gai. A small shrine[Glossary: hokora] is located next to the Kiinokuniya Bookstore at the southern edge of Jizô Yokochô, and as the name Kitamuki Jizô suggests, the shrine is oriented "facing the north." A local religious service association provides candles and incense before the shrine, and worshipers are allowed to use them freely. The Kitamuki Jizô is also known by the name Ichigan Jizô ("one-wish Jizô), stemming from the legend that fervent worship will be rewarded by the miraculous fulfillment of a single petition.2

Regular observances include the offering of a Great Goma Mass [Goma Kuyô TaisaiVI] on August 23, performed by ascetic practitioners (gyôja) of the Kumano Hongû Shrine,VII followed on August 24 by the performance of an Urabon Mass [Urabon KuyôVIII] (Jizô Bon) by the intendant priest of the Shingon temple Taiyûji. During the Great Goma Mass, one-thousand amulets for personal safety, and one-thousand traffic-safety amulets are blessed, and these amulets are distributed to devotees at the time of the Urabon Mass on the following day. On October 20, the intendant priest of Taiyûji performs a celebration of "divine removal" in memory of the anniversary of the date on which the Jizô was first installed and worshiped at its present structure. Other than these festivals, a "monthly festival" [tsukinami-sai[Glossary: tsukinami_no_matsuri]] is celebrated on the twentieth of each month, Jizô's regular memorial day.

The ceremonial worship at the Kitamuki Jizô came to be observed in its present form at the time the Hankyû Sanban-gai was constructed in 1968. According to the Hankyû Railway Company's "History of Seventy-Five Years"IX (hereinafter abbreviated as "History"), construction and development of areas lying along the Hankyû lines began accelerating rapidly around 1955, and that development was accompanied by a sudden increase in the number of people using the rail lines to commute to work and school. In the decade from 1955 to 1965, the number of passengers embarking and disembarking at Umeda Station each day roughly doubled, from around 300,000 to 600,000. Further, an International Expo was held at Senri Park (located along the Hankyû line) in 1970, and officials foresaw that at the current rate rate of growth, the railway would soon be unable to handle the flow of passengers at peak rush hours.3

To respond to the burgeoning demand, the Hankyû Umeda Station--then located on the inner (south) side of the National Railway's loop line--was relocated to the north side of the National Railway terminal. This relocation was part of a plan of development (titled the "H-plan") which was aimed at "the development of a new Umeda district complex which would combine terminal and 'downtown' shopping facilities with central urban services." The fundamental aims of the "H-plan" were to produce a facility with compound services and functions, while achieving optimum use of highly expensive center-city land space.

As a result, the station terminal itself was equipped with enhanced terminal functions, while remaining land space was used for the erection of high-rise office buildings, and an expansive underground shopping mall was constructed beneath the terminal complex. The expense involved in the redevelopment project involved the enormous sum of some twenty-six billion yen, a gamble said to have risked the overall future of the Hankyû Railway Company.4

The project involved the purchase of part of the land in the Shibata Itchôme block, together with the entirety of the Kofuka-chô block. According to the "History," "the area around the northern side of the elevated National Railway line was at that time characterized by a jumble of old buildings which had escaped damage in World War II, mixed promiscuously with shanty-house construction from the immediate postwar period, producing an overall area redolent with the atmosphere typical of districts found on the 'underside' of many train stations in urban Japan."5

An interview with Watanabe Toshio, chairman of the Shibata Itchôme block association, revealed that the Kitamuki Jizô was originally enshrined in a narrow alley located in Kofuka-chô. The local block association requested the neighborhood Jôdo Shinshû temple Saizenji to observe Jizô Bon and other rites, but it is not clear in what form those rites were held.6 As a result of the sale of the land composing the block, the block association itself ceased to exist, and the Jizô was moved at least three times while the New Hankyû Hotel was being constructed nearby. During this period, it appears that no religious rites were sponsored by any specific organization.

Around the time that advertising for tenants in the Hankyû Sanban-gai area was begun in 1968, arrangements were made to remove the Kitamuki Jizô together with a small Jizô image from Shibata-chô to the Jôdo-shû temple Manfukuji in Toyonaka City (a temple under the hereditary intendancy of the family of the man then serving as president of the Hankyû Braves baseball team). The upcoming move was announced by a sign in the district, and Honda Tadao, a prospective shop tenant in the Hankyû Sanban-gai shopping area, saw the sign.

Through Honda's friendship with Mori Kaoru, vice-president of Hankyû Railways, he approached the Railway's president, Kobayashi Yonezô, and requested that the Jizô be allowed to remain enshrined in its present location. This request apparently met with considerable company opposition, since it would mean allocation of valuable land space for the construction of a shrine and dedication of the Jizô image. According to the current intendant priest of Manfukuji (the same man who, as noted above, was then-president of the Hankyû Braves baseball team), both the Kitamuki Jizô and the other small Jizô image from the Shibata-chô area were temporarily moved to Manfukuji, and kept there for only one day. The small Jizô from Shibata-chô remained at Manfukuji, installed as a tutelary of the temple's cinerarium, and while the subsequent train of events is not clear, the Hankyû president Kobayashi did make the decision to return the Kitamuki Jizô to its current location in Hankyû Sanban-gai.7 Since Kobayashi died of cancer soon thereafter, some people rumor that his charitable decision was prompted by awareness of his illness.

At the time of the new enshrinement of the Kitamuki Jizô, a religious service association dedicated to the Jizô was established by tenants of the Sanban-gai area. As of 1990, the president of Hankyû Railway served as chairman of the shrine's service association, although everyday upkeep and practical administration of the shrine have been carried out by Honda Tadao since the time that regular ceremonies were begun. Honda was also responsible for selection of both the location where the Jizô is currently enshrined, and the stonemason8 responsible for construction of the shrine.

Everyday upkeep and cleaning of the shrine[Glossary: hokora], as well as the presentation and removal of offerings before the image, are carried out by Honda, assisted by Higashiyama Kôjirô and Matsumura Sôji. Each day Honda commutes via the earliest morning train from his home located along the Hankyû line, makes offerings before the Jizô, and cleans the area inside the shrine, while Higashiyama and Matsumura take turns cleaning the area outside the shrine. Both Higashiyama and Matsumura are former employees of the Hankyû Railway Company, and made their first contact with the Kitamuki Jizô when they were transferred to the company's facilities maintenance division just prior to retirement. Since their retirements they have continued to take care of the Jizô shrine, under Honda's supervision.

Honda maintains strict rules regarding the offerings made to the Jizô, and the manner in which they are presented. He also issues his own rather unique interpretations of religious elements relating to the Jizô, saying, for example, that the Jizô represents an "in-between" position between buddhas and Japanese indigenous deities or kami, and that believers receive divine blessings through the circulation of air in the space surrounding the image.9

Honda himself was raised in a home which has traditionally maintained an interest in matters of religion,10 and since the prewar period he has worked for the restoration of small wayside shrines which have fallen into disuse, while also engaging in personal religious practices.

Immediately following the end of World War II, Honda met, and received religious instruction from Okada Matsunosuke, founder of the new religion Tenchi no Taikyô[Glossary: tenchi_no_taikyo],X attending religious meetings at Okada's home and walking around with Okada to restore small wayside shrines. As a result, it appears that the distinctive manner in which Honda conceives of and worships the Kitamuki Jizô has been strongly influenced by Okada.11 The teachings of Tenchi no Taikyô involve the geomantic divination of houses, ancestral graves, personal seals and company logos in order to elicit good fortune and eliminate evil karma.12 Within the group, Honda is viewed as the direct disciple of the founder Okada, and he continues at present to act as an adviser to the group.

3. Patron Worshipers of Kitamuki Jizô

Many visitors congregate at the Kitamuki Jizô even on ordinary days, and one frequently observes a line of supplicants waiting in line for their chance to pray before the shrine. One indicator of the large number of visitors is the amount of offerings received annually by the shrine; in 1988, the shrine received 80 million yen, while offerings in 1989 rose to nearly 100 million yen. These offerings are donated to year-end mutual assistance and other charities.

As part of my survey, I sat in front of the shrine and observed the numbers, gender, apparent age, clothing, and behavior of visitors to the shrine. When circumstances permitted, I also conducted personal interviewed with visitors. I undertook this kind of informal survey on six days, including August 9, 10, and 26, 1990, and March 18, 19, and 22, 1992, each time staying from 7:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. (with the exception of a few periods in which I was forced to be absent13). A graph indicating the numbers of pilgrims during each quarter hour produces roughly similar curves on ordinary weekdays and weekends. In the case of those periods when observation was omitted, I interpolated numbers by using the number of visitors during the same time period on another nearby day. This results in the graphs of weekdays and holidays visitors shown in Graphs 1 and 2.

Based on this survey, my estimation of the number of daily visitors on weekdays of 1990 averaged 177 men and 351 women (total 528), while an average of 243 men and 419 women (total 662) visited the shrine each day in 1992. On weekend holidays, the totals for August 26, 1990 were 266 men and 367 women (total 633), while on March 22, 1992 they were 309 men and 410 women (total 716).

In comparison to the figures for 1990, the number of visitors in 1992 were between ten and twenty percent greater, although the ratio of men to women was unchanged (weekday ratio, men:women = 1:2; weekend holiday ratio, men:women = 4:6).

(1) Weekday Visitors to the Shrine

[visitors on weekdays] The graph of weekday visitors to the shrine (Graph 1) shows a clear morning peak of both men and women visitors between 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. The majority of male visitors during this time period tend to be businessmen aged around 20-40, in summer wearing white shirts and neckties, and in March dressed in ordinary business suits. Females appeared to be young office workers. The male visitors also showed a somewhat smaller peak in the afternoon period from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.

In general, the visitors appeared to be dropping by the shrine on their way to and from work, but men displayed particularly characteristic behavior at the shrine. Most offered neither candles nor incense, but simply threw a few coins into the offering box and stood briefly in prayer. The ordinary length of time spent in prayer ranged from ten seconds to thirty seconds, and any prayers extending over forty seconds produced a distinct impression of exceptional duration. On rare occasions, a visitor stood in prayer for two or even three minutes.

In the case of women visitors, no significant peaks in numbers were apparent outside of morning hours. Beginning from about 11:00 A.M. women visited the shrine on their way home from shopping and work. Most appeared to be in the age range 40-50, with short hair, and they all tended to dress in closely similar attire, blouses with detailed floral patterns in summer, and woolen pullover sweaters in winter. Many carried paper or plastic shopping bags from the nearby Hanshin and Hankyû department stores, and they held rather large handbags. My interviews indicated that many of the women worked in the Umeda area, or were working women who transferred between trains at the Umeda station. Almost all visitors reported that they currently lived in areas served by the Hankyû railway lines.

Virtually all those people visiting the shrine at off-peak hours reported that they were engaged in some activity (occupation, shopping, etc.) in the Umeda area, and they had simply dropped by the shrine on their way to and from their other activities.

While observing the visitors to the shrine, a specific pattern emerged from the visitors' behavior. They would first pray before the shrine, then walk around the right side to the back of the shrine, where they would knock on the wall and pray again. This act had significance as a means of informing Jizô of the visitor's worship. In fact, so many people had knocked on the wall that it had been turned white in places. After this act, the visitors would frequently worship again from the west side of the shrine. Some even performed this cycle of actions as many as three, seven, or ten times. Even people without a specific object of supplication would follow the pattern, and it is likely that most who did were regular visitors to the shrine. Several people each day could also be observed wafting the smoke from the incense brazier over their heads, or scooping it in their hands and rubbing it on shoulders, hips, or legs.XI

(2) Weekend Visitors to the Shrine

[visitors on weekends and holidays] The graph of weekend visitors to the shrine (Graph 2) shows the same peak for females as evidenced on weekdays, but the curve for males lacks the sharp peak at those times which fall within commuting hours on weekdays. In its place, there is instead a gently rising peak between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. And while the number of female visitors was evenly distributed between morning and afternoon, male visitors showed a clear concentration in the morning hours. In particular, most of the visitors in this time segment were dressed casually, in summer wearing knit shirts and trousers, some with sandals on their feet. In winter they wore knit shirts with jackets; the most frequently observed physical characteristic in both summer and winter was the use of the hands; almost all either carried a newspaper (apparently sports or horse racing news), or walked with their hands in their trouser pockets. It was also common to see the same person make several visits to the shrine in a day, leaving a certain fixed period of time between visits.14 I gathered that such visitors were customers of the off-course betting booth for horse racing in Shibata-chô.15

Female visitors on weekends came dressed in georgette blouses or two-piece suits, and many wore mildly tinted eyeglasses. While men's dress on weekends appeared more casual than on weekdays, women appeared to wear relatively more so-called "dress-up" clothes on weekends. It appeared that almost all of these women visitors were paying visits to the Jizô in conjunction with shopping trips.16

A significant peak in numbers of both male and female visitors was observable during the noon hours from 12:00 P.M. until 2:00 P.M., a fact likely related to the large number of restaurants located in the Hankyû Sanban-gai area. In addition, weekend visitors to the shrine tended to come more frequently in groups, most of which appeared to be composed of married couples, parents and children, and friends. The characteristic format of worshiping by walking around the shrine observed on weekdays was relatively less apparent on weekends, and a relatively larger number of weekend visitors confessed that they had not previously known of the existence of a Jizô shrine in the area.

(3) Participants in Calendrical Rites

The people who participate in the shrine's annual rites are not the same as those who visit the shrine on ordinary weekdays and weekends. Here, I want to use as examples the Great Goma Mass observed August 23, 1990, and the Urabon Mass held the next day, August 24. The Great Goma Mass of 1990 was celebrated by fourteen priests (including three women) affiliated with the Kumano Hongû Shrine.

At noon on the day of the rite, an altar was prepared before the shrine and rows of benches were set in place. To the west of the shrine, seats were prepared for visitors; when all was ready, Chief Priest Kuki of the Kumano Hongû Shrine appeared together with several executives of the Building Business Division of the Hankyû Railway Company. Two or three persons--apparently employees of the Hankyû Railway--acted as assistants for the shrine caretakers Honda, Higashiyama, and Matsumura. To the right side facing the front of the shrine small amulets made of white paper streamers[Glossary: shide] (gohei[Glossary: heisoku]) were hung in a bunch. Following the conclusion of the Urabon Mass on the next day, the amulets were distributed to visitors with sick family members, and others who wished to use the amulets as healing talismans.

At around 12:12 P.M., the observance began with the blowing of conch shell horns and the recitation of a preliminary Buddhist confession (sangemon). After intonation of the Heart Sutra, the mantra Jizô shingon was recited. As the ritual was taking place, worshipers continued approaching the shrine and offering incense without interruption.

Finally, all the ritual participants blew their conch shell horns together in conclusion of the rite. The officiants then arranged themselves in single-file behind their priestly leader, who continued blowing the conch shell, and for a period of about fifteen minutes walked through each level of the Hankyû Sangan-gai mall, performing a ritual purification of the area as they walked. They then returned to the shrine and rested for about twenty minutes.

At about 12:55 P.M., Honda Tadao stood before the assembled crowd and made brief introductory comments, after which the Goma Mass proper was held beginning at 1:00 P.M. The leader of the priests first read a Buddhist invocation and placed fire into the goma altar. All the priests then shook the metal rattles on their staffs (shakujô) and recited the Kannon Sutra, followed by the Heart Sutra, and the leading priest then began blessing the shrine amulets. During the ritual, Honda acted as an attendant assisting the leader, while Higashiyama, Matsumura, and the assisting Hankyû employees did nothing. The amulets were stacked in boxes behind the shrine building. The Hankyû employees placed the amulets on ritual stands (sanbô) and made sure to pass them to Honda, who offered them to the priest for consecration (shône-ireXII.) During this time, the other ritual participants continued reciting the mantras Fudô shingon and Jizô shingon. After about twenty minutes, the priests blew their conch shell horns and the ritual came to an end.

About thirty-five worshipers attended the ceremony, of whom only six or seven were men. They also appeared to be divided into a number of groups, including a band of devotees of the Kumano Hongû Shrine, who had come from the city of Kawasaki in Kannagawa Prefecture. According to one member of that group, a majority of the people gathered for the ceremony appeared to be devotees of Kumano. These individuals, however, did not participate in the Urabon Mass on the following day. During my interviews, I also came across one man who lived along the Hankyû rail lines and indicated that he visited the Kitamuki Jizô only on the occasion of its formal ceremonies.

By 9:00 on the following morning, preparations for the day's ceremony were underway at the site, including the setting up of chairs. Honda, Higashiyama and Matsumura prepared offerings without any involvement by the Hankyû employees. On the top level of the three-level altar were offered (from left to right) apples, rice cakes, and watermelon. Peaches, shiitake mushrooms, sea tangle, and grapes were offered on the second level, while wrapped sweets were placed on the lowest level. Each offering was placed on its own ritual stand, and the stands were aligned in a row on their respective levels of the altar. The categories of articles offered were exactly the same as those I observed during the previous year's Jizô Bon.

At 9:20, about ten members of the Nishinomiya Goeika-kai [a fraternity of Buddhist hymn chanters] arrived. A noodle shop called Shinobu-an, located across from the Kitamuki Jizô, was used as a waiting room for the ritual participants. At 9:40, the ritual officiant, Reverend Azabu (intendant priest of the temple Taiyûji), arrived together with two assistants. The priests used a storeroom behind the shrine as a dressing room in which to change into their ritual vestments. After dressing, the priests sat before the altar, with the group of hymn chanters sitting on benches behind the priests.

At 10:00 A.M., Honda Tadao made a few introductory remarks, after which sutra-chanting commenced. The ceremony began with a chanting of the "Hymn to the Four Wisdoms" [shichisan], followed by a Buddhist invocation. The invocation included petitions for safety on the Hankyû Railway, business success, the commercial prosperity of Hankyû Sanban-gai, and family safety for all worshipers.

These invocations were followed by a chanting of the Kannon Sutra, during which time Honda directed the assembly in the offering of incense. Incense was offered first by the president of the Hankyû Railway (simultaneously chairman of the shrine's religious service association); a representative of the Hankyû Group; a representative of the Sanban-gai board of directors; managing director of the Building Administration Division of Hankyû Railway; a representative of the Nakatani familyA; and a representative of the Hankyû Sanban-gai merchants' association.

This sequence was followed by the offering of incense by general worshipers. When the offering of incense was opened to the general audience, about 130 people lined up, of whom about 20 were males. Following completion of the Kannon Sutra, the mantra Jizô shingon was chanted.

The offering of incense by the audience was completed at about 10:25, thus bringing the ceremony to a close. Honda offered brief concluding remarks, and the priests and audience left the shrine. In addition to the distribution of the gohei which had been prepared earlier, the protective amulets which had been consecrated the previous day were also distributed at the office of the religious service association, located beside the shrine.

Once the priests had left the ritual site, the Goeika-kai began chanting Buddhist hymns while shaking their staffs. Members of the audience variously bowed their heads in worship from behind the chanters, or went forward and offered incense. The chanters continued their performance until about 11:50 A.M. Among those attending the regular ceremonies were some local mothers who had come together in a group. Most of the mothers had learned of the Kitamuki Jizô via word of mouth, and attended the ceremonies in order to offer prayers for their children's success in school examinations and work, and for help with rebellious children.

In response to my question, "Why do you come to offer worship at the Jizô shrine?" most people provided vague answers like "I just happened to learn that it was there," or "my parents instilled in me the custom of worshiping the buddhas and deities," or "I'm getting older, and thought worshiping the deities and buddhas was the normal thing to do," thus emphasizing the customary, everyday nature of their behavior.17

Virtually all worshipers also indicated to me that they did not currently worship the Jizô out of any pressing need or desire, even though some indicated they had had such desires in the past.

Some did admit that they worshiped in order to ask for general blessings on the order of "safety and health at home," or out of the desire to express their thanks for health and safety that day, once again emphasizing the very ordinary nature of their actions.

On the other hand, when I inquired about the divine virtues (goriyaku) of the Kitamuki Jizô, most worshipers responded with stories about the very non-everyday aspects of their faith, saying that the Jizô had prevented accidents from occurring on the Hankyû Railway, or was responsible for the prosperity of the Hankyû Sanban-gai. Likewise, some told of the miraculous healing of injuries and sicknesses, of children whose delinquency had been corrected, difficult school-admission tests which children had passed--in short, replies which carried a strong emphasis on the clearly miraculous powers of the Kitamuki Jizô. In point of fact, I did observe a very few cases of worship by pregnant women or people with physical injuries.

(4) The Worship of Urban Wayside Shrines

The people who come to pray at the Kitamuki Jizô can be arranged in several categories. In turn, it is the integration of those categories which makes up the overall phenomenon of Jizô worship today. A review of the historical development of faith in the Kitamuki Jizô reveals the diachronic changes which have occurred in the characteristic religious activities centering on the shrine.

The Kitamuki Jizô image was first discovered by the Nakatani family at the time the family was clearing a new field for their farm. Initially buried in the ground, the statue was taken up and worshiped by the family. By rescuing the once-discarded image and enshrining it anew, the Kitamuki Jizô took on the characteristic of a kind of family tutelary deity (yashikigami[Glossary: yashikigami]) for the Nakatani family.

The Nakatani family later moved away from the Umeda area, and responsibility for worship of the image shifted to the residents of Kofuka-chô. By that time, it appears that the local residents worshiped the image through the medium of a confraternity () focused on certain conspicuous individuals.

At that early stage, the Kitamuki Jizô can be said to have possessed the characteristic of a chthonic deity of the geographical locality, or what Miyata Noboru has called a "landlord" deity (jinushigami). A landlord deity[Glossary: jinushi_kami] is said to disburse blessings or curses to the people who reside on and use its land, in response to human attitudes and conduct toward it. As a result, residents actively promote and maintain their faith in the deity, thereby hoping to improve the environment of their everyday place of life.18

With the advancing pace of urban development, however, the local area loses its characteristic as the focus of everyday life, and the number of permanent residents drops, thus placing pressure on the religious forms previously based on such community concepts. In the case of the Jizô faith in the Umeda area, the social nexus for religious support probably came closest in nature to that practiced at the Enmei Jizô, a form maintained by older women living in the same tenement housing (nagaya).19

In the case of Kitamuki Jizô, the geographical unit of Kofuka-chô, which had previously served as home to the image, itself disappeared in the course of reconstruction for the new Umeda Station, meaning that the Jizô had, once again, been "discarded." This situation, in turn, was followed by the "recovery" of the image and construction of an even finer shrine in the Hankyû Sanban-gai area. In the course of changing circumstances reflected by the buying and selling of land and the reconstruction and moving of buildings, religious personalities appeared on the scene with legends of the deity's curse, thus reaffirming the concept of the spirit dwelling on the land, and leading to an even more conspicuous form of worship for the deity. In that sense, the case of the Kitamuki Jizô shares common features with the phenomenon of so-called hayarigami[Glossary: hayarigami] or "deities of ephemeral notoriety" which so often appeared during the Edo period.

A closely related example is the Umeda Jizô (commonly called the "Gote" Jizô) which was discovered during excavations for the old Sonezaki Police Station. After its discovery the Jizô was said to cause misfortunes in the locality, and was eventually enshrined in the area behind the police station, where it was supported by the local community association (in effect, a local merchants' association).

According to Miyata Noboru, characteristics of the hayarigami phenomenon include (1) broad diversity in the kind of buddhas and deities serving as objects of worship; (2) erratic, intermittent nature of religious activities; (3) discrete, functional discrimination of divine powers and benefits; (4) geographical limitations on the spread of the beliefs; (5) three general patterns of discovery or appearance, including [a] excavation from the ground, [b] arrival by flying through the air, and [c] arrival by sea or river; and (6) role of a religious practitioner in spreading word of the deity's appearance.20 In the case of Kitamuki Jizô, however, the role of the mediating "religious practitioner" (6) was played neither by the intendant priest of Taiyûji nor by the practitioners from Kumano, but by Honda Tadao.

Rumors of a past curse have, on the contrary, a positive effect on the attraction of worshipers, by serving as evidence of the miraculous power of the deity. Both offerings and worshipers are said to have increased at the Umeda Jizô after the shrine was introduced in newspapers and women's magazines as a deity with the power to bring good fortune to lottery and pin-ball (pachinko) players.21 The Kitamuki Jizô has similarly been introduced several times on television and in newspapers, and among the people I interviewed, some said they first visited the shrine after hearing about it in the popular media. The fact that many visitors on weekends and holidays appear to be on their way to gamble at the horse races can be taken as an indicator of the characteristic of Kitamuki Jizô as a non-everyday hayarigami. This effect is heightened by regular observances like Jizô Bon, which have taken on the cast of public "carnivals" for people in the station terminal area, and thus continue the Edo-period tradition of festive ennichi.

When studying the activities of visitors to Kitamuki Jizô, particularly those observed on ordinary weekdays, one must consider the terminal-station's distinctly "local" personality. The most disctinct characteristic of weekday visitors is the fact that most morning visitors, both men and women, appear to be visiting the shrine during morning commutes to work.

While commuting to work is a typically "everyday" kind of activity, it forms, from the actor's perspective, a period of movement between the home--locus of everyday life--and the workplace--locus of production activities.22 In particular, judging from the brief worship offered by male commuters, who quickly toss an offering into the offering box, one can surmise that such visits are not undertaken out of the personal desire for some special boon. Rather, Kitamuki Jizô serves as a kind of "landmark" on the way to the place of work, and stopping there can be considered a sort of customary habit which may foster a shift of attitude in preparation for the work day, similar in nature to the custom of daily worship by bowing and clapping one's hands in front of the family Shinto altar (kamidana[Glossary: kamidana]).

Sonoda Hidehiro has pointed out that the Japanese terminal station serves a dual function, first in transportation as a terminal and transfer point for travelers, and second as an assemblage of urban facilities for shopping, dining, and other consumption and leisure activities. Sonoda goes on to suggest that the latter role of a station as a focus of "leisure" cannot be found in the train stations of foreign countries, leading him to the conclusion that the role of a terminal station as an entertainment district is not a necessarily outgrowth of the station's primary role as a center of transportation, but rather a development unique to Japan.23

According to Sonoda, train stations primarily oriented toward long-distance travel (for example, Tokyo's Ueno Station) are characterized by highly "non-everyday" attributes, due to their role as portals to another world. In contrast, commuter terminals designed as a means of linking urban centers with suburban areas are merely parts of mundane life itself, thus leading to the creation of surrounding entertainment districts as hubs for everyday life.

Sonoda thus claims that the modern terminal station in its role as entertainment district is not cast from the same mold as the "red-light district" which focused on the adult male and was oriented toward drinking and sexual entertainments. Rather, as typified by the department store, it is an entertainment center for women and children, or for adult men with their families, in short, an urban facility for family leisure outside the home, an extension of the living room.24

Sonoda's analysis of the terminal station is quite suggestive when applied to the worship observed at the Kitamuki Jizô. In particular, the weekend and holiday activities of visitors to the shrine as they pass through on their their way to the racetracks, or with families on shopping trips is intimately linked to the character of the terminal station as a routinized "non-everyday" space within the local community.

In one sense, the establishment of the entertainment district in Tokyo's Asakusa areaXIII represented an everyday routinization of the non-everyday temple feast-day or ennichi,25 a fact which points to the substantial linkage existing between religious facilities and entertainment districts in Japan. The custom of paying worship to deities and buddhas on feast-days and during special seasonal exhibitions of Buddhist images (kaichô[Glossary: kaicho]) resulted in the gathering of large numbers of people in temple areas, stimulating the development of clusters of merchandising, entertainment and restaurant businesses. In the case of both the Kitamuki Jizô and the Umeda Jizô, the driving force behind the shrine's religious service association is the local merchants' association in the respective area.

As noted above, one part of the observance of the Great Goma Mass involves a purification of the Hankyû Sanban-gai shopping district, carried out by religious practitioners from Kumano. This ritual purification simultaneously affirms the role of the local stores as patrons of the Kitamuki Jizô, and the role of Kitamuki Jizô as a tutelary deity of the local area. The earlier belief that worshiping a "landlord deity" would result in an improvement of the locality thus changes into an assumption that Jizô's divine efficacy helps the local area prosper by attracting large numbers of shoppers.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the relationship between terminal station districts and religious activities is demonstrated by the example of the "Trevi Square," located in the same Hankyû Sanban-gai.

The northern side of the elevated tracks of the National Railway lines was long considered an undesirable business district, due to its strong associations with the image of a seedy "underside" to the station. One of the central issues when developing the Hankyû Sanban-gai district was thus how to overcome this negative image and attract customers. It is reported that designers at the earliest stages of the "H-Plan" already looked intently for some kind of scheme that would succeed in attracting visitors. As a result of their studies, they decided to construct an environmental display based on the theme of Nature. This plan resulted in the construction of a spacious "strolling" promenade within the underground shopping center, including an artificial river, lake, fountain and waterfall.26

From the very first day of the center's opening, visitors to this riverside mall began throwing coins into the pond and river flowing through the sub-basement promenade. Rumors of this custom spread and became a common topic of conversation, as well as being picked up by the mass media. Some time later, a contest was held to select a name for the square where the underground fountain was located, and when the results were made public, the name "Trevi Square" had been selected, since it had been suggested by an overwhelming majority of participants.

What is important here is that the action of throwing coins into the fountain preceded selection of the name. Coins continued to be thrown into the fountain thereafter, and as of March 31, 1982, the total value of the coins cast into the fountain was said to have exceeded 5.28 million yen.27

While this phenomenon was obvious based on the custom of throwing coins into the "Trevi Fountain" in Rome, Japan has its own common custom of casting coins into the ponds and purification fonts of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. As a result, the possibility exists of viewing the activity here as having a religious significance.

A related example can be seen in the activities surrounding a statue of Daikoku[Glossary: daikoku] (a god of fortune) located in front of the Sanwa Building on Hibiya Boulevard in Tokyo's Ôtemachi district. Following construction of the monument, people began offering coins to the image, and rumors sprang up of miraculous efficacy demonstrated by the image, leading to a continual increase in the number of visitors paying worship at the image. Like the case of the "Trevi Fountain," no religious figures were involved in promoting the new phenomenon.28

What is common to both these phenomena is the fact that those responsible for constructing the facilities involved did not consciously anticipate the religious behavior which resulted. This fact, in turn, provides evidence that something continues to exist within us capable of provoking a religious response to phenomena sensed to have a religious quality, and that response is viewed as natural and appropriate.

These examples suggest that expanded urban development does not have a unilaterally negative impact on the continued existence of religious institutions within the city. It is quite true that the trend toward higher density and more efficacious use of urban space has resulted in a loss of local community identity, and a decline in the attention paid to many wayside shrines and Buddhist images. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand how the Kitamuki Jizô succeeds in attracting large numbers of believers without reference to the unique "personality" of the urban terminal station. At very least, since the time religious ceremonies first began to be observed in their present form, the rites held at Kitamuki Jizô were strongly influenced by the relationship between the terminal station itself and the outlying areas serviced by the Hankyû Railway lines.

In conclusion, the religious activities at the Kitamuki Jizô form an example of how elements of religious culture (folklore) can remain alive by adapting themselves to forms more appropriate to the diverse circumstances of "irreligious" urban life.


1. This fact forms one reason that research in so-called "urban folklore" has tended to focus on studies of the persistence of traditional folk phenomena within the urban environment, in other words, on how folk customs originally considered characteristic of the rural village have managed to "survive" in the modern environment of the city.

In fact, however, it is possible that residents of the modern city are characterized by a fundamentally different life rhythm and spatial orientation than that associated with village residents stereotyped as the "ordinary people" (jômin); in order to do justice to those differences, however, an approach is required which diverges from that employed in conventional ethnography.

2. Hankyû Sanban-gai Kitamuki Jizô-son Hôsankai [Religious service association for the Lord Kitamuki Jizô of Hankyû Sanban-gai], Kitamuki Jizô no shiori [History of the Kitamuki Jizô].

3. Hankyû Dentetsu Kabushiki Gaisha, Nanajûgo-nen no ayumi [kijutsu-hen][History of seventy-five years (reports volume)], (1982) 143.

4. Plans for moving the station to the north side of the National Railways elevated tracks were first announced in 1961; the first stage of construction under the plan was accomplished in 1966 with the movement of the Kobe Line.

5. Hankyû Dentetsu K.K., Nanajûgo-nen no ayumi.

6. According to the Kitamuki Jizô no shiori (see note 2), the image was first discovered in 1891 when Nakatani Yasabee was plowing a field in the locality. Thereafter, Nakatani took on responsibility for worship of the Jizô, and on the sixteenth day of the tenth month of 1893, he built a shrine facing the north and enshrined the image there.

7. According to contemporary newspaper accounts, it was decided to enshrine the Jizô "by order of the company president."

8. The stonemason was also a member of the Tenchi no Taikyô.B

9. The Kitamuki Jizô is mounted in a base which has been hollowed out to match the shape of the image; as a result, the image itself is not fixed in place. Further, the shrine has been designed with a removable wall on the western side, thus allowing believers to come into direct contact with the deity's miraculous power.

10. Honda's daughter married a priest of the Shingon sect, and it is her husband's temple that furnishes the fraternity of hymn chanters who perform at the Urabon Mass.

11. Okada was originally a fish wholesaler at Osaka's Tenman Market, and his name can be found in records as a steadfast opponent of the unification of wholesalers which accompanied establishment of Osaka's central wholesale market in the 1930s. Thereafter, he withdrew from the market, but it is said that he found many of his followers from among company owners and others connected with the market. At the time, Honda worked as a buyer at the restaurant division of the New Osaka Hotel.

12. Inoue Nobutaka, et. al., eds., Shinshûkyô jiten [Encyclopedia of the new religions] (Tokyo: Kôbundô, 1990), 841.

13. The omitted periods include 8:45 A.M. to 10:15 A.M. on August 9, 1990; 5:45 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on August 10, 1990; and 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on March 19, 1992.

14. As a result, the numbers here and on the accompanying graphs should be taken to indicate the aggregate total visits made to the shrine.

15. Horse racing experienced a surge of popularity in March 1992; during that period, I observed a particularly large number of people with newspapers moving in a wave toward Shibata-chô.

16. My interviews with a limited number of these women revealed that virtually all were in this category.

17. In an interview, the intendant priest of the temple Taiyûji suggested that while many moderns possess a genuine sense of religious faith, they tend to be embarrassed to publicly admit to that faith.

18. Miyata Noboru, Edo no chiisana kamigami [Minor deities of Edo] (Tokyo: Seidosha, 1989), 10.

19. See my essay, "Ôsaka Umeda chiiki no Jizô saishi" [Worship of Jizô in the Umeda area of Osaka], Tôkyô Daigaku shûkyôgaku nenpô VII ] (1989), 103.

20. Miyata, Edo no chiisana kamigami, 56.

21. According to an interview with Shiono Kiyoshi, chairman of the Umeda Jizô religious service association. As one example, the October 24, 1985 issue of the Osaka evening edition of the newspaper Asashi shinbun featured an article headlined "'Word-of-mouth rumors bring high popularity to 'gambling Jizô' at Sonezaki police station."

22. Iwamoto Michiya suggests that a salaried employee's daily commute to work represents a transition from private space to public space, thus serving to create a rhythm to daily life and to discriminate public and private spheres of activity. See Iwamoto's "Sarariiman no seikatsu fûkei" [Everyday scenes in the life of the salaried company employee], Toshi kodô: machi . Nihon no genfûkei 4 (Tokyo: Ôbunsha, 1986), 129.

23. Sonoda Hidehiro , "'Majime na' sakariba no seiritsu: taaminaru bunka no rekishi-teki ichi" [Establishment of a "serious" entertainment district: the historical stature of culture around terminal stations], Inoue Tadashi, ed., Toshi no fookuroa (Tokyo: Domesu Shuppan, 1988), 179.

24. Sonoda, "'Majime na' sakariba no seiritsu," 188.

25. Takada Masatoshi, "Toshi no sakariba: Asakusa kara Shibuya made" [Urban entertainment districts: from Asakusa to Shibuya], Inoue Tadashi, ed., Toshi no fookuroa (Tokyo: Domesu Shuppan, 1988), 157.

26. Hankyû Dentetsu K.K., Nanajûgo-nen no ayumi, 155.

27. Hankyû Dentetsu K.K., Nanajûgo-nen no ayumi, 157.

28. An article regarding the phenomenon can be found in Yomiuri shinbun (Tokyo), October 12, 1975 (cited in Miyata, Edo no chiisana kamigami, 55).

Translator's Notes

I. Originally published as "Toshi taaminaru chiiki ni okeru shôshi saishi: Hankyû sanban-gai, Kitamuki Jizô no sanpai kôdô", in Bukkyô Minzokugaku Taikei Henshû Iinkai, ed., Bukkyô minzokugaku no shomondai, Bukkyô Minzokugaku Taikei 1 (Tokyo: Meicho Shuppan, 1993).

II. The original title of the survey was Ôsaka-shi Kita-ku Umeda Chiiki no Shûkyô Chôsa.

III. Sometimes glossed as the Japanese festival of "all saints," the summer bon festival is observed in August or September as a period during which spirits of departed ancestors return to this world to visit their living descendants.

IV. Ennichi[Glossary: ennichi] means literally "day of karmic connection," indicating days of the astrological calendar considered to be intimately associated with a particular deity or buddha, and thus most auspicious for the forming of a "karmic affiliation" with that deity. The ennichi of Jizô was usually observed on the twenty-fourth day of each lunar month.

V. That part of western Japan composed of the prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka, Shiga, Hyôgo, Mie, Nara, and Wakayama.

VI. The rite of goma [Sanskrit: homa] is a fire ritual, performed as an offering and as a means of invoking blessings.

VII. Kumano Hongû Shrine (Kumano Hongû Taisha[Glossary: kumano_hongu_taisha]) is one of a complex of three major Shinto shrines located in Wakayama Prefecture at the southern end of Japan's Kii Peninsula.

VIII. The Urabon kuyô is a memorial performed in summer as a means of assuring the repose of dead souls.

IX. See reference in author's footnote 3.

X. Okada (1894-1975) began public religious activities around 1940 which eventually led to the founding of Tenchi no Taikyô in the postwar period. The group currently has about 2500 members.

XI. Smoke from incense offered in front of temples is frequently believed to have miraculous efficacy for healing sickness and assuring an individual's personal safety.

XII. Shône-ire refers to the ritual invocation which consecrates the amulets and imbues them with divine power.

XIII. The area surrounding Sensôji, one of Tokyo's best-known temples.

Editor's Postscript

A. As Murakami will explain shortly, the Nakatani family discovered the Kitamuki Jizô buried in the ground and "adopted" it as their tutelary deity; hence, their representation in the ceremony.

B. Murakami will soon explain Honda's connection with Tenchi no Taikyô. For more on Tenchi no Taikyô see Translator's note X.

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