, the Sanskrit
name is Ksitagarbha
and the Japanese
form is Jizo. The name means "Treasury of Earth" but also "The Matrix of the World" or "The Womb of the World".
According to the Ksitagarbha sutra, Jizo appears in the naraka-gati or Realm of Utter Contraction (the realm of experiencing only fear or self-loathing, equivalent to a "hell" but temporary), but also in the realms of preta (hungry ghosts), animals, humans, asura (somewhat similiar to the Greek titans), and deva (shining ones or gods).
He/she/it represents the opportunity to always see another way out of the situations one creates for oneself and to choose it.
In Japan Jizo has become associated with tenderness and care for "water-babies", the term for aborted fetuses and their mothers. This is why statues of Jizo are so often seen surrounded by offerings of small toys and are sometimes draped with a red bib.
Sadly, until very recently, abortion was often the only accessible means of birth control available to Japanese women except abstinence. And abstinence was not always available as a choice, especially for young married women.