The local display of Jizo statues and temples, a centuries old cultural Japanese ritual in which an individual or family builds a public temple to house the deity in remembrance of a deceased child, woman, or traveler, is produced, maintained, and protected by neighborhood residents without government or design-professional oversight. Its value lies in the desire of local people for a physical object through which they make personal linkages to devotional practices. This essay examines two propositions about the construction and use of the public realm as expressed through the Japanese practice of neighborhood Jizo statues and temples,: 1) do Jizo assist in making streets safer in cities; and 2) can these temples be considered part of the public realm that strengthens the neighborhood? An historical basis for the Jizo ritual is established, followed by a description of how Jizo are located in neighborhoods, who maintains them, and how they are utilized on an every day basis. Visual depictions of various Jizo installations also are presented. The article concludes that Jizo is an example of community-based practice that works because it meets people’s needs. Jizo statues and temples do serve as informal public realm creating agents.

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