All About Japan

Guardian of Travelers Now on Traffic Cones

Art Design

One of Japan's contemporary artists is breathing new life into the humble traffic cone, with a unique design that’s set to stop traffic in an unusual manner. Created by Fusao Hasegawa, the “Jizo Cone” features a molded image of Jizo Bosatsu, the guardian deity of children and travelers.

Known in Sanskrit as “Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva,” Jizo, which literally translates to “earth womb,” is usually depicted as a robed monk with his hands clasped in prayer. Commonly referred to in Japanese as Ojizo-sama, stone carvings in the bodhisattva’s image can be seen at graveyards, where he helps to look after deceased and unborn children in the afterlife, and along roadsides and at intersections, where he watches over travelers as they continue along their journeys.

Now Ojizo-sama has been given a new home from which to guide and protect travelers: inside the body of a traffic cone. Following the first prototype, created in 2009, the “Jizo Cone” has undergone several improvements and will be available for sale starting summer 2016, at a price of ¥8,000 (US$72.90) to ¥9,000 (US$81.65) each.

Adults might be too tall to notice the unusual feature as they walk past the cone, but children are the perfect height to spot the image of Ojizo-sama. As night falls, the beautiful and practical works of art are sure to get even more attention as they catch the glare of headlights on the road. Let’s hope they don’t give drivers too much of a fright as they appear out of the darkness!

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