Kṣitigarbha is revered in East Asian Buddhism. He is known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds between the death of Buddha Śākyamuni and the rise of Buddha Maitreya, as well as his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells are emptied. He is therefore often regarded as the bodhisattva of hell beings, as well as the guardian of children and patron deity of deceased children and aborted foetuses in Japanese culture.
Usually depicted as a monk with a halo around his shaved head, he carries a staff to force open the gates of hell and a wish-fulfilling jewel to light up the darkness.
In Japan, Kṣitigarbha, known as Jizō-ō Bosatsu, or Ojizō-sama as he is respectfully named, is one of the most loved of all Japanese divinities. His statues are a common sight, especially by roadsides and in graveyards.
In Japanese mythology, it is said that the souls of children who die before their parents are unable to cross the mythical Sanzu River on their way to the afterlife because they have not had the chance to accumulate enough good deeds and because they have made the parents suffer. It is believed that Jizō saves these souls from having to pile stones eternally on the bank of the river as penance, by hiding them from demons in his robe, and letting them hear mantras.