Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

February 15, 2013

Kuginuki Jizo (Kyoto Guide)

Kuginuki Jizo (or, officially, Shakuzoji) is a small temple sitting in the northern part of Senbon Street in Kyoto. The name means the “Jizo that pulls out nails,” and is a wordplay on “Kunuki,” or “removing pain.”

[The Jizo Hall with its wooden votive panels with nippers and nails]

According to legend, the Jizo was carved by the famous priest Kukai from a stone he brought back from his sojourn in China. In reality, of course, it must have been one of the many anonymous carved stones standing at the wayside in old Japan. The main image of the temple, an Amida Trinity from the 13th century, was likewise set up by the wayside and later incorporated into the temple.

[Giant, decorative nippers in front of the small temple hall]

The temple must originally have grown up on the basis of the legend that the Jizo statue could bring relief from distress. It was only in the 16th century that a new and more vivid legend took over. A certain merchant had terrible pain in his hands. In a dream the stone Jizo of this temple appeared to him and removed two nails from his hands, telling him they were a punishment because in a previous life he had felt a grudge towards another person. The next day the merchant visited the temple, and saw two bloody nails on the altar – and his pain was miraculously gone.

[Offerings out of gratitude of nails and nippers]

So from then on, when people thought the Jizo helped them find relief, they would offer a set of two nails and a nail puller attached to a small wooden board to the temple as a token of gratitude. The custom still exists and many of these sets have been attached to the outside wall of the Jizo Hall – a most original decoration. The temple is always busy with supplicants.

[Jizo is present in the temple grounds as well]

Hrs.: 8:30~16:30. Free. Access: 3 min walk from Kyoto City Bus stop "Senbon Kamidachiuri."