After the wonders of Nikko we head to the impressively named Kanmangafuchi abyss.
Kanmangafuchi is also known for its row of about 70 stone statues of Jizo, a Bodhisattva who cares for the deceased.
This particular group of Jizo statues is alternately called “Bake Jizo” (Ghost Jizo), “Narabi Jizo” (Jizo in a line) or “Hyaku Jizo” (100 Jizo).
They are amazing! Each statue is subtlety different and clad in distinctive red caps and bibs .
As well as the serene line of little dudes, we also get a great view of the river in full spate.
Recent heavy rains meant that the water rushed and boiled in a most spectacular way.
Even with all its violence and turmoil the water is still a mesmerising shade of blue.
It might have been a drizzly day but the river still has a magical, magnetic, feel to it.
We get up close to the swirling waters naturally! And get rather soaked for our troubles.
Back on the banks we take another leisurely stroll amongst the mossy statues.
In Japan, the colour red is associated closely with a few deities in Shinto and Buddhist traditions, and statues of these deities are often decked in red clothing or painted red.
These particular statues are Jizō – the guardian of travellers, the hell realm, children, and motherhood.
Everywhere in Japan, at busy crossroads, at roadsides, in graveyards, in temples, and along hiking trails, you can find statues of Jizō Bosatsu.
They are often decked out in clothing, wearing a red or white cap and bib, protected by scarfs, or piled high with stones offered by bereaved parents.
According to legend, children who die prematurely are sent to the underworld for judgement.
They may be pure souls, but they have not had the chance to build up good karma, and their untimely death caused great sorrow to their parents, and so they must undergo judgement.
They are sent to Sai no Kawara – the riverbed of souls in purgatory -where they are forced to remove their clothes and to pray for salvation by building small stone towers, in the hopes of climbing out of limbo into Buddha’s paradise.
But hell demons constantly scatter their stones and beat them with iron clubs.
However Jizō comes to the rescue, often hiding them in the sleeves of his robe. Therefore Japanese parents try to improve their child’s chance of redemption.
They do this by dressing statues in the hope that Jizō will cloth the dead child in his protection. They will also place stones on the statue in order to help their children perform their tower building penance.