A fairly typical image of Jizo, a Japanese form of the Buddhist Bodhisattva* (Bosatsu) Ksitigarbha. He is depicted throughout Asia as a simple, childlike monk, but he is especially venerated in Japan as a protector of the souls of children and the unborn. It is common to see Jizo figures all over Japan, especially along roadsides and paths. Offerings are left with the icons, most commonly caps or bibs, flowers, and stones, often pleas to reduce the suffering of children. Jizo’s staff (shakujo) is a traditional monk’s walking stick, hung with metal rings, ostensibly to warn away animals on the road for the mutual protection of man and creature alike.
*A Bodhisattva (Sanskrit, “essence of enlightenment”) is a highly spiritually developed being who stops short of Buddhahood in order to aid others in attaining enlightenment.