• Kyodo


Residents of Tarumi Ward here are grim these days following the recent kidnapping of a “jizo” stone statue enshrined in a local structure.

Retiree Yoshikazu Kitahori, 66, a resident of the ward who has maintained the guardian deity of children, said the 40-cm-tall jizo disappeared on March 5.

He found a note left at the offertory box in front of the structure demanding a 300,000 yen ransom.

“I have your jizo,” the note said. “If you want it back, provide 600 500 yen coins and bury them at the site designated on the attached map.”

Although details of how the jizo was brought to the community in Tarumi Ward are unknown, local residents said it was given as a gift from Shodo Island in Kagawa Prefecture about 25 years ago.

Because the structure is located on Hatafuriyama hill, the jizo has been popularly known as Hatafuriyama Enmei Jizoson by local residents.

About 15 local residents representing the community organize jizo festivals on the 26th of every month. The community has also enshrined local victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake at the jizo.

Tarumi police have launched an investigation into the apparent theft.

“This is damned stuff. We want our jizo back as soon as possible,” Kitahori said.