The problem with school supplies

When children start preschool or kindergarten in Japan, parents usually write their names on their school supplies. Oftentimes, these supplies look the same, so it's easy for kids to get them mixed up with those of their classmates if they're not marked somehow.

For parents, colored pencil sets are particularly bothersome. They roll around easily, making them even more prone to get mixed up with other kids' pencils, so parents have to put their kids' names on each one.

"This is what happens when you have a sculptor for a father"

This is what Kyoto Buddhist sculptor 宮本我休 Gakyu Miyamoto (@Gakyu_Miyamoto) wrote when he posted a video on his Twitter account recently.

In Japan, academic and fiscal years begin in April, so Miyamoto's daughter began preschool this month. This meant Miyamoto had to prepare her belongings. Since he carved wooden Buddhist sculptures for a living, it was only natural for him to do things a bit differently. Instead of writing her daughter's name on her colored pencils, he added an identifying mark by sharpening one end with a knife.

However, as he was chiseling, his creative instincts and his sense of humor kicked in, and he decided to go one step further. Watch the video here to see what happened to his daughter's pencils as a result!

Turning one of the pencils around revealed a face!

Those familiar with Buddhist sculpture may recognize it as that of Kṣitigarbha. Called Jizō Bosatsu 地蔵菩薩, or respectfully as お地蔵様 Ojizō-sama in Japan, the deity is known as the guardian of children, among other things, and his statues are commonly seen, especially by roadsides, in graveyards and Buddhist temple grounds.

Jizo statues in the garden of 三千院 Sanzen-in temple in Kyoto. | Motokoka, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Miyamoto cleverly made use of the pencil's red color to reproduce the Jizo's red bib, as seen in the image above.

The deity's gentle smile that appeared on the pencils elicited comments such as: "I had to look twice," and "Wow! Too cute!"

In a follow-up Tweet, Miyamoto revealed that this wasn't the first time he had done this. When his son entered preschool, he carved the likeness of 大黒天 Daikokuten, a syncretic Japanese deity of fortune and wealth and one of the 七福神 shichifukujin, or Seven Lucky Gods.

But Daikokuten didn't last long. Soon after his son began school, he came to Miyamoto with a request: "I ended up sharpening the pencil, so could you please carve it again for me?"

Reproduced with permission from 宮本我休 Gakyu Miyamoto (@Gakyu_Miyamoto)

As the guardian of children, the Jizo will surely look out for Miyamoto's daughter when she's at school, at least until she sharpens the pencil. And when that happens, you can be sure he'll be happy to carve it again.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.