Tucked away inside the bustling city of Tokyo, is a cemetery known as the “Unborn Children Garden.” Located in the Shibaneighborhood of Minato, Tokyo, the garden is a place for parents pray and mourn the loss of their unborn child. For a small donation to the local temple a couple or mother can adopt a little statue called a mizuko jizo. These statuettes symbolize the child and are believed to be protected by Jizo, the guardian deity of children. Walking among the rows and rows of tiny statues, you will notice that each statuette have carved out faces and are dressed in baby’s clothing. In addition to leaving gifts, such as little toys or pinwheels, parents will also cloth their “newborn” figurine with bonnets, bibs, or hand-knit sweaters to keep them warm against the cold. They call this ritual mizuko kuyō. It is meant to help parents express their feelings and comfort the soul of their child. Many shrines like this can be found all over Japan.
Having a dedicated space for a loved one’s memory can help ease the pain of the mourning process. But you don’t need to travel to Japan to access a memorial shrine! You can create one in your own home. One reason why it’s beneficial to have a physical space is so that you can grieve in private or in peace. Another great reason is to give you the freedom to be as creative or expressive as you want in how you choose to grieve. Popular places to dedicate to your loved one’s memory are the fireplace mantel, the bedroom, a display cabinet or a cupboard.
Also, the objects that we place within that special area are equally important. Objects, such as pictures, personal effects or urns help strengthen the memories of our loved ones. For example, urns are the perfect and practical solution for those who want to have their loved one’s ashes close by. Urns are easily transportable and can be placed in any carefully selected area within a home. Similar to the little toys and pinwheels, adding special decorative touches to the space can bring comfort and joy. Just like the shrines in Japan, these personal sacred spaces remind us that mourning can be a private process even if it’s done in plain view.