A-Z of Japan: D is for…

Anyone who knows me will know that there is only one possible topic for this week’s A-Z of Japan. In my mind, D is not for dango (団子), Doraemon (ドラえもん) or Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール). D is for… Daibutsu!

Daibutsu (大仏) are giant Buddha statues, and I love them. In fact, I love them so much that I would like to design a tour in which people go to Japan just to visit them (or at least squeeze one into every regular tour). There are actually a surprising number of them in Japan, and I have seen only a few.

One thing that I have always been curious about is what exactly qualifies as a “daibutsu”. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of big Buddha statues that have not been called “daibutsu”, so is it a size thing? Or do they have to be in a certain position? I thought at first that they had to be sitting, but I learnt that that isn’t the case when I heard about Ushiku Daibutsu (牛久大仏). The Ushiku Daibutsu is a standing Buddha statue in Ibaraki Prefecture, which is a whopping 120 metres tall (including the base)! I had planned to go and see it, but it was just after the March 11th earthquake and the park in which the statue is located was closed for safety. It’s fine now though, and I wish I could go and see it.

Probably the most famous daibutsu is the Great Buddha of Kamakura:

Great Buddha (Daibutsu)

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is 13.35 metres tall, and made from bronze. It is located at Kotoku-in (a temple) in Kamakura.

The next most famous daibutsu must be the Nara Daibutsu (奈良大仏) at Todai-ji (temple) in Nara. Todai-ji’s Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden building in the world, and the bronze statue inside is 14.98 metres tall.

Todaiji, Nara, 2nd January 2009

While I was in Tokyo, I came across a little known big Buddha – the Tokyo Daibutsu (東京大仏):

Jourenji Temple (Tokyo Daibutsu), Itabashi-ku, Tokyo

This statue is at Jouren-ji (temple) in the suburbs of Tokyo, and it’s 13 metres tall.

In Kyoto, there is a daibutsu which took me by surprise when I first saw it. It was night-time, New Year’s Eve in fact, and I suddenly saw it, ghostly white against the dark hills. This turned out to be Ryozen Kannon, and the steel statue is 24 metres tall:

Ryozen Kannon, Kyoto, 3rd January 2009

I used to think of this statue as “my Buddha”, because it’s not usually in guide books and I felt like I had discovered it. That was until I found the daibutsu at Shurakuen (聚楽園公) in Aichi Prefecture, which even my Japanese friends didn’t know about. This is my Buddha:

Large Buddha (Daibutsu)

I’ve never been able to find much about this statue in English, but there is a website with some information here in Japanese. The only website which seems to mention it in English is this one. The statue is 18.8 metres tall, and made from reinforced concrete. It was built by a businessman from Nagoya.

The last daibutsu I will mention today is an unusual one because of its colour:

Toganji Temple

This green statue is located at Togan-ji (temple) in Nagoya, and is 15 metres tall. I think a lot of people visiting Nagoya miss this temple, but it’s certainly worth a visit!

As I mentioned, there are lots of daibutsu in Japan (and of course in other countries too). I’ve only seen these ones, but I certainly plan to see more on my future trips to Japan. Do you have any recommendations?

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