ICS Occasional Papers

Grey Statues with Red Bibs: Exploring the Cultural and Religious Dynamics of Mizuko Kuyo (水子供養)

Scholarly research on mizuko kuyo has largely focused on its religious and social implications with a specific emphasis on its historical development as a significant Buddhist practice in Japan, the continued contemporary observance of the ritual necessitates a re-evaluation of its significance in the context of evolving reproductive norms and attitudes towards fetal loss and abortion in Japan. This paper examines the emergence and significance of the mizuko kuyo movement within the broader social and cultural context of contemporary Japan. By exploring state laws on abortion and childbirth, and the rituals and symbolism associated with mizuko kuyo, this research seeks to unravel the symbolic and emotional significance attributed to the ceremony, providing insights into its cultural implications and its role in supporting conventional gender roles in Japan. This multi-faceted examination of the mizuko kuyo movement thus offers a deeper understanding of its emergence, significance, and impact within contemporary Japanese society.

Keywords: Japan, Culture, Religion, Mizuko Kuyo, Gender, Childbirth practices, Abortion practices.


Yamini Meena

Research Intern, Association of Asia Scholars.

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