Saturday, October 11, 2008

Call Me Haephestus. Well, kinda.

I see the similarities.

Recently I've been thinking about Ojizo, the guardian Buddhist saint of children (usually deceased), a kind of savior for the souls of the underworld. There's really a lot to him (sometimes her!) but for now just know there are cute little stone statues all over Japan that are representations of this deity. And for some unknown reason, I've been obsessed with them. I've been buying books, studying, wandering around taking pictures. One day last week I asked my mother-in-law if she knew of someone who carves the statues because I wanted to ask him some questions. She said yes, she did, there was a famous jizo carver guy living nearby. No way! She gave me his name and all his wonderful deeds but couldn't give me an address or anything more. I went home and spent a wee bit of time on the Internet, a few calls later and I'm now one of his students!

It rocks. It literally rocks. Ha ha ha ha...! (*I'm slapping my knee here*)

Yesterday was my first lesson. Five hours of pounding stone. But first I had to get to his place which was an hour's drive in the mountains. At the risk of driving into and oncoming car or straight off the side of a cliff I took a few pictures.

Narrow ass bridge.

I can't tell you how nervous I was. I was. But after finding the parking place I marched down the side of the mountain and ran into two shaggy-looking men cutting trees with a chainsaw. Although he didn't introduce himself right away, I knew one was the teacher (thank you, Google) so I could be all smarmy polite and make a good impression. Despite being told he was a mean little curmudgeon, I found the teacher was perfectly delightful and he had no wrists!

He, as it turns out, has got quite a name for himself. He has statues all over Japan and a bunch in Kyoto at famous temples. He said that once a German museum curator was touring Kyoto and saw one of his ojizo statues and fell in love. It took him awhile, but he tracked my teacher down to this little no-name town and begged him to make one for his museum in Germany. Cool.

Here are some pictures I took of some of his pieces that were sitting around the work area.

This is a post card of some of his work.

There are ten other students. All long-timers. All very, very good. Here they are measuring and drawing out plans and such.

The first jizo any student makes is this one. Very simple. Very cute.

I received a block of stone, some instruments and was shown how to pick which surface to use as the surface, how to find the center, and how to lay the rock between my feet for good carving. Then I was told to go slow but have at it.

I spent a bit of time watching others carve, I swatted several mosquitoes and once ran screaming like an idiot from a giant spider (I mean, we're way in the mountains guys!)...that last one really endeared me to the teacher I think. But most of the five hours I spent swinging my hammer and chipping away stone. And this is what my rock looked like when I was done for the day:

Almost there!

They say it will take at least six months to complete. The other students are working on projects that have lasted years. Some take their (BIG) stones home with them to work on them there. They all have various bandages and wrappings on their arms and fondly laughed at me remembering out loud a time when they didn't have tendinitis. Still. Despite some serious joint throbbing today, I'm stoked about the little statue. As a matter of fact, I already have a place in my garden for it--a small patch of moss that I will encourage to grow on the jizo with vast success I'm assuming.

Only one problem. Of all the hobbies I could have picked, I seemed to have chosen the one where if we ever decided to head back to the States I couldn't possibly lug my masterpieces home with me. But who knows, maybe by then the price of overweight baggage will go down. Or I'll win the lottery.

I hope.


Pat said...

Or you'll be a famous jizo carver yourself and your admirers will be pounding down your door to buy your little statues before you can get away to the States!

This is very, very cool, Terrie! I'm totally in awe of your initiative; can't wait to see your progress.

laughingwolf said...

way to go, t!

a neat hobby, for sure :)

the viking at the top reminds me of the olden days when my dad used to do both farrier and blacksmith work, on his farm :D

Kappa no He said...

Pat, now there's a goal! If only my wrists, elbows and shoulders hold out. I'll post pictures as the little fellow comes along.

Laughingwolf, OMG, you have an awesome dad!

Frank Baron said...

Good for you Terrie! Looking forward to seeing the little man emerge from his rocky cocoon. :)

Gina said...

You have a really cool hobby. I can just imagine you chipping away! That is honestly really neat Terrie.

I have a question for you. I have a few of those statues around where I live and they have red knit type hats on the tops of their heads. Do you know what I mean? : ) How come some are dressed with hats and stuff. Do you know? I have often wondered that. I find them really cool and very beautiful though. But always wondered why some statues wear knit red hats. : )

Have a good day over there. It really cooled off in Japan today huh? My temp meter for outside says 62 F degrees outside. Sorta Fall like. : )

Kappa no He said...

Frank, thanks! I have already come to terms with the fact I cannot think in 3-D or draw to scale. Lord knows what will emerge from that stone!

MDK said...

I see the making of an absolutely fabulous Jizo statue. Good luck with it. I've often thought about wood carving,sculpture, etc., but if my writing is any indication, I would have blocks of wood cluttered around the house, each with just a chip or two taken out. I'm looking forward to seeing your progression.

Kappa no He said...

Good question Gina! Let's see, one of jizo's main jobs is as guardian to children, especially children who have passed away. Back in the day, he was thought to go down into the underworld and help children pass from purgatory into a better place.

The red hats and bibs (scarfs and often toys) are gifts parents--people who have lost children themselves or people who just want to say thank you to this representation of compassion and kindness. The gifts are given in hopes that the jizo will pass them along to the deceased children.

In Japan red is the color tradionally believed to expel demons and disease. Red was used when tending sick people, especially children suffering from smallpox.

You'll also see groups of six jizo lined up, too. In Buddhist thought there are six realms/states of existance and a line of six jizo would signify one guarian per path.

I could go on and on!!

Kappa no He said...

MDK, ha ha, oh, I'm the same. All I need is a bunch of rocks laying around!

Anonymous said...

Hi Neighbor! Sorry I am late commenting and thank you for visiting me = )

Disney is SOOOOO busy today!!!

Gesh, when I read your post I quickly remembered the phallic statues as well but I often see them coupled together. Terrie what an adventure you are embarking upon, a unique hobby but so rewarding- I bet it's time to muscle up then eh? I never knew one could participate in Stone carving, how long do you anticipate your masterpiece taking a Bow?

I was browsing through your blog and I caught a picture of you and your family surrounded around the Holiday Tree, it sure was precious, so endearing, you look SOOOO Happy!!!


Kappa no He said...


I actually found some statues that were jizo when you looked at them from the front and very phallic when you looked from behind. Mine will be strictly PG rated. Ha.

I wanna go to Disney. *sniff*

Aha! You found the family pic.

Ello said...

THat is so very cool! Good for you! And if you make a few masterpieces, you will have to send it by cargo ship and it will take months and months but it will be cheaper than anything else so don't worry about bringing it home!!!

Kappa no He said...

Thanks Ello, great idea! I hope they'll let all my home grown moss into the country.

Anonymous said...

haha you make me laugh... PG Rated! Don't sniff on the Big "D", I only go there to hit the shops and get my Halloween fix, we try to use our passes to get our yen worth.

Do you have any information,I wonder if they off this option for those in Aichi? Yes, your family picture.. oh so cute, I bet you are a hoot to hang out with!!!

Hilary said...

What a great hobby.. and opportunity for you - seeing as the artist/teacher is just a stone's throw away from you. ;)

I'm looking forward to seeing this gem develop.

Kappa no He said...

GirlJapan, my big problem is I'm no good with crowds. When my son was in elementary school we'd just take a day or two off during the week and get to ride everything. Now that he's in junior high it seems they send lynch mobs out for those who take a day off.

Hilary, "Stone's throw", you're the funniest!

Mary Witzl said...

I've always loved those little o-jizo statues too, but unlike you, have never longed to make one.

I did do pottery in Japan, however, and I can promise you that it's a heck of a thing to send work back without it getting smashed up...

laughingwolf said...

thx t... had... he died this past february :'(

Kappa no He said...

Mary, pottery is my next quest. I love Japanese pottery. Again, you are correct, how would I ever get it home?

Laughingwolf, I'm so sorry to hear that. He sounds like he was a wonderful father, has such a wonderful son!

womaninawindow said...

And somehow this endears you to me. How cool!

Kappa no He said...

You are so sweet! Was it part about me running from the spider while screaming like a little girl? *wink*wink*