Mizuko (水子), which translates into “water child,” is a Japanese term for a dead fetus, baby or infant. A grieving woman wrote to me today asking that a Jizo pendant be sent to her as soon as possible to help her grieve the loss of her Mizuko. For centuries, Jizo has helped those suffering through this painful loss.
In Japan, grieving parents who have lost a fetus or baby often hold a mizuko kuyo ceremony. During the ceremony, offerings are made to Jizō Bodhisattva, revered in Japan as the protector of children. The practice of mizuko kuyo is believed to have begun in the 1600s, when famine sometimes led those struck by severe poverty to infanticide and abortion. The practice became even more commonplace after World War II, when scores of women aborted fetuses. It is believed that Jizo protects the children from suffering, taking their souls to Ku to await their return to another, different life.
It is common for temples to sell Jizō statues to grieving parents. The statues are then dressed in red bibs and caps, or the baby’s own bib and cap and displayed in the temple garden.
Deep within us all lives the Mizuko Chibi, the little one of the water, who lived for such a short time, always within the mother’s womb.