Mizuko (aborted, stillborn or miscarried fetuses) (水子)
"Mizuko" is a term that refers to the following:
Dead fetuses. This section will describe its details.
It is a name of a place (oaza, an administrative unit) located in Fujimi City, Saitama Prefecture. There is a Mizuko-kaizuka Shell Mound which is an officially-designated historical site. Refer to the section on Mizuko (Fujimi City).
Mizuko refers to fetuses that have died as a result of an abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Originally, "Mizuko" was pronounced as 'suiji,' and it was one of the Igo (names according to age and sex) which was placed after the posthumous Buddhist name, given in case of stillbirth or given to those who died prematurely.
Just as described, Mizuko was a notion that included not only dead fetuses, but also children who have died during their infancy or in early childhood; however, due to the explosive increase of abortion in Japan after the war, the meaning which is used in the present day began to take hold as the custom of mizuko kuyo (a mass for a body lost through miscarriage or abortion) spread from around 1970s. The reason behind this is largely due to the start of an extensive advertisement for mizuko kuyo by the temples which were in financial troubles as a result of the downfall of parishioner system and have arranged tie-ups with large grave stone companies.
On the other hand, commenting on 'mizuko no tatari' (curse of mizuko), 'mizuko no sawari' (harm brought on by mizuko), and so on is pointed out of possibilities to drive women who had abortions to mental anguish, and in some instances, there are many vicious cases (illegal business) such as selling expensive merchandise or urging donations by blatantly provoking anxiety, and it was recognized as a social problem.