I’ve been back from Japan for almost three weeks now and in a weird way it’s like it never happened. Work is in full swing, and I’ve hardly had a moment to stop. Still, my house is happily full of Japanese food and souvenirs, and I have thousands of photos to remind me of the good times. Talking of thousands of photos… I’ve finally started sorting them out and uploading them, so I thought it was about time I shared some of my adventures in more detail. I thought about various ways of posting about my trip, and did consider a day by day journal-like approach, but in the end I decided to just post as and when I have time about the amazing adventures I had. They may not come out in chronological order – it depends how I feel!
So, today’s post is about my Ushiku adventure. Back in 2011 when I was planning my last week of sightseeing in Japan before moving back to the UK I had planned to go to Ushiku to see the Ushiku Daibutsu (牛久大仏). However, my plans had to change a little following the Tohoku earthquake, and I never made it to Ushiku. Ushiku (牛久), in Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県), has always been on my list of ‘places to go next time’, and I’m pleased to say I finally made it there on May 12th.
From Ueno Station in Tokyo, it’s just under an hour on the JR Joban Line to Ushiku. I planned to take a bus from Ushiku Station to the Ushiku Daibutsu, but when I got there I found there wasn’t going to be a bus for ages, so I decided to splash out on a 20 minute taxi ride. The taxi driver seemed quite surprised and pleased to find a Japanese speaking gaijin (foreigner) in his car, and happily chatted away to me about how bad his English was (in Japanese). Little did I know this was going to be the first of many such taxi conversations during my one month in Japan!
Before long I reached the Daibutsu and bid farewell to the taxi driver. I paid my 800 Yen entrance fee, and entered the park. From the outside I had already spotted the statue, but suddenly I was faced with him straight on…
I don’t know if any of these photos will do it justice, but this statue is ENORMOUS!
He stands 120 metres tall (including the 10 metre high lotus throne he stands on), weighing around 4,000 tonnes. His face alone is 20 metres long. When the statue was completed in 1993 it was declared the world’s tallest statue by the Guinness Book of Records. Today it is the world’s third tallest statue, beaten only by the Spring Temple Buddha in China (153 metres) and the Laykyun Setkyar (Buddha) in Burma (130 metres). By comparison, the Statue of Liberty stands only 93 metres tall if you count the pedestal, 46 metres if you just measure the statue.
Inside the statue is a museum which shows how the statue was built. It’s all in Japanese, but there were a lot of photos so it was still quite interesting.
A real-sized replica of the Buddha’s toe, which is more than 5 feet tall:
Inside the Buddha there are five floors. There is also a lift inside the statue, taking visitors up 85 metres so they can peep out of the Buddha from the fourth and fifth floors. There are windows facing north, south, east and west, and there is of course a gift shop too.
The first floor represents the ‘World of Infinite Light and Life’, and there are these cool glowy Buddhas (or ‘reliefs of silence and mystery’, according to the pamphlet):
The Second Floor represents the ‘World of Gratitude and Thankfulness’, and there is a prayer room where you can copy sutras for Amitabha Buddha.
The Third Floor represents the ‘World of the Lotus Sanctuary’, and it is filled with 3,300 small golden Buddha statues. I’ve never seen anything like it!
Outside the statue there is a flower garden and animal park. It was really overcast and windy by the time I came out, and I wasn’t sure exactly how I was getting back to Tokyo, so I decided to give the animals a miss. On my way out I did see these ladies doing some gardening though…
…as I waved goodbye to the biggest Buddha I’ve ever seen!