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Finally crossing the formal gateway to Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵);  my curiosity was piqued when I first read about it.  I visited Tamozawa Imperial Villa which was close by before coming here.
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I did not have Google maps & that would have been very helpful but fortunately  I was able to ask for directions  with my smidgen of Japanese. We walked down the street through a quiet neighbourhood behind Tamozawa Imperial Villa  & turned right after the 4th lamp-post, descending gradually down the alleyway before turning right once more, crossing a bridge & walking another 200m before we spotted  the entrance to Kanmangafuchi Abyss.
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What a curious sight indeed! I guess I have seen Jizos within various temples in Japan before but not in single file formation & in such proliferation. Kanmangafuchi’s Jizo are popularly known as “Bake Jizo” or Ghost Jizo as the numbers seem to change when seen from different spots.
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So what exactly is a Jizo & why the profusion of them at Kanmangafuchi Abyss?
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Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a  gorge that was formed when an eruption of nearby 2486m high Mount Nantai  occurred around 20,000 years ago. It is situated in central Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture of Japan.
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A walking trail that is just a few hundred metres long run alongside the Daiya River & you are surrounded by nature,  the sound of birds & gushing waters – a natural perk me up for the body & soul.

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Apart from natural beauty, Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) is also well known for its row of about 70 Stone Jizo statues of Bodhisattva which in Mahayana Buddhism points to one who delays attaining nirvana because of compassion & to aid those suffering.
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The Jizo Bosatsu (地蔵菩薩) statues have a red cloth tied around the neck and knitted red hats covering their heads. The colour red represents safety & protection & local womenfolk often dress the Jizo with hats, robes or anything they wish to adorn the Jizo with as a way to accrue merit for the afterlife.
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Jizo is one of the most popular Buddhist divinities & in Japanese mythology he is believed to help stranded children who were stacking stones on the river bed of souls because they did not have a chance to build a good karma, to cross over in the sleeves of his robe.
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Daiya River flows out from the eastern side of Lake Chuzenji, passing through Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) & reaching Shinkyo Bridge which is part of Futarasan Jinja (二荒山神社).
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Rock stacking along the river bed. In Buddhism it is a form of worshipping & a wish of the stacker for good fortune for family & self. Each stone represents a particular wish or family member.
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Jizo is always smiley & is a defender of children, travellers & the weak. He is said to especially heal women who have lost their children to death.
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When you next visit Japan, keep a look out for Jizo who is popular & found at most shrines or temples in this intriguing Land of the Rising Sun.

So what exactly is a Jizo & why the profusion of them at Kanmangafuchi Abyss? I hope you have found the answer!

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