Jizo-bon (an event to commemorate Jizo as the protector of children) (地蔵盆)
Jizo-bon is the day of the festival of Jizo Bosatsu (24th of each month), or the period of three days before the evening festival on July 24 of the old calender in the Obon festival, or it also means the day of the festival of Jizo Bosatsu, which is chosen from the days of the festival.
By the way, Jizo-bon does not generally celebrate Jizo Bodhisattva enshrined in temples. It represents Jizo seen on waysides or street corners, and Jizo is related to the belief of Doso-shin (traveler's guardian deity).
On the 24th when the fair is on, except July 24 in the old calendar, is called Jizo-e (an event to commemorate Jizo as the protector of children) or Jizo-bon, however, in terms of July 24 in the old calendar, since it is during Urabon festival (a Festival of the Dead or Buddhist All Soul's Day, around the 15th of July or August, depending on local customs), it is called Jizo-bon. Currently in some areas the day of the fair is changed to Saturday or Sunday to suit people's needs who work on weekdays, so that they can come to the fair.
By the way, the reason why Jizo-bon separate into before or after July 24 or August 24 in the solar calendar, is because there is a difference between when Obon is held, either changed to the new calendar, or held in August of the old calendar - please refer to next chapter for details of differences in when Obon is held.
Jizo-bon is a custom celebrated in all over Japan, it is especially popular in the Kinki region, such as Shiga, Kyoto and Osaka Prefectures.
On Jizo Matsuri, people in towns where there are Jizo statues wash them to purify especially on this day, and put new aprons on them, or put makeup on the faces to decorate, and worship by giving some food or gather around the Jizo and put lanterns around them.
Before and after Jizo-bon, special paper lanterns used for Jizo-bon are often seen in the area where Jizo are enshrined around houses or small shrines. In Kyoto there is a tradition to dedicate a votive sutra of chochin with the name of the baby when new baby is born. Most of the time the color of chochin is red for girls, white for boys, and it is put on as decoration while that baby participates in Jizo-bon.
Jizo Bosatsu became to be revered as guardian of children after the medieval period. There is well known legend that Jizo Bosatsu saves children who died before their parents and suffered at Sanzu no kawa (the River of Three Crossings). Because of this, it is customary for children to sit in front of Jizo to pray and to receive divine Grace in Jizo Matsuri. There is sutra chanting or Buddhist sermons held in different places, but they are held for children most of the time. In some areas, 'Juzumawashi' is held in the morning of the day of Jizo-bon. This is children in the town sitting around a big bead roll of two to three meters long, and they move the bead roll as the monk reads a sutra.
Nowadays Jizo-bon can mean a festival for children, after they pray for Jizo they were given some sweets or home made foods prepared for service for dead people in the area where children gathered around Jizo. Also some events for children are organized since many children gather in the local area all at once, often the place changes into a children's play area after Jizo-bon festival.
In the morning on the first day of the festival, Jizo-bon is prepared, there will be sutra recitation by monks, distribution of sweets to children (once or twice a day), and events at night time (dancing or fireworks) are organized. In many places sweets and other food for an offering will be distributed and things are put away on the following day. However, in some towns the festival is finished in one day due to the decreasing number of children or people who cannot come because of other commitments. There is a lottery during Jizo-bon, which was drawn in 'Fugooroshi' style. A rope was hung between the house of person in charge of lottery and the house across the street, and prizes were gathered by pulling hanging cords. After that the prize was brought downstairs. However this style of lottery is not often seen nowadays.
Sometimes Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana) is enshrined in some towns, and in these towns the same festivals or Dainichi-bon are celebrated on either July 28 in the old calendar, which is the festival of Dainichi Nyorai, or on, before or after this date (similar to Jizo-bon, either July or August is recommended). Often the festival is held on a different date, on Saturday or Sunday, similar to Jizo-bon, some towns have Dainichi-bon festival one week later than others, depending on the calendar of each year.