A Must-Visit in Japan: Daibutsu

This post was originally featured on one of Temple University’s Study Abroad Blogs, which document the journeys of students studying at Temple affiliated universities around the world. My post appeared on the “Temple U Japan” student blog on March 19th, 2015.

The first of my posts on the top “must-visit” places in Japan is Daibutsu (大仏) aka Great Buddha, which is a term used in general to represent each of the several large Buddha statues scattered throughout the country. The one featured above is the one I visited and although it may be recognizable to you, it is not the most well-known daibutsu — this being the one that resides in Todai-ji in Nara. The photo above shows Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏) in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture — an Amitabha Buddha that towers over 13 meters. The trip to see this daibutsu, especially on a pleasant day, is an enjoyable one; the whole area surrounding the Buddha is open and the sun beats down on the grass, the steps, the pebbles and the temple. What surprised me the most — besides its unbelievable height — was the discovery that it was hollow inside, an aspect of the statue that probably allowed for easier construction and maintenance throughout the Me & Buddhacenturies. For a small fee (I believe around 100-200 yen) you can take a short walk through the opening to the right of the Buddha and walk up a set of stairs to check out the dimly lit hollowed feet and chest area. Drop your head back and you can admire the opening of the neck and squint to check out the head at the very top. The inside is a tight space and only a few people can cram inside to explore the tiny room, but it is full of extra tidbits on the construction and maintenance of the otherworldly structure — an experience definitely worthy of your spare yen (plus you can say “I’ve been inside that Buddha!!”).

When I returned home, I decided to explore online a little, and thanks to every college student’s best friend Wikipedia, I discovered even more ridiculously cool facts about the Kamakura Daibutsu. According to Wikipedia and many other resources, the statue, constructed of bronze, was born by man’s hand in the 1200s (the Kamakura period), but this was only after its wooden predecessor, which was destroyed in a storm some years before. The Buddha was also at one point covered in gold (!), and housed in several buildings which were also broken down by storms, but now it stands without the cover of a roof. When you go inside the Buddha you can see the giant plates of bronze layered underneath using a technique called ikarakuri, and while there I also learned of the types of repairs — to places like the neck and base — that the statue underwent over time. Check out some photos I took of this iconic Japanese figure!

A view from inside the Buddha: here we’re looking up at the hole that is the neck, and over the railing there are two windows on the back side of the statue.
Here is a shot of the Great Buddha that shows you just how big it really is. From here you can also see the intricate base, which was previously broken and repaired.
People waiting to sniff some of the incense at the foot of the statue.
This arch marks the entrance to the temple grounds where the Great Buddha stands. The street light is such a strange contrast from the gorgeous traditional style of the arch!
Kotoku-in, the Buddhist temple where the Daibutsu is housed.
A beautiful bridge near the entrance of Kotoku-in that is too old and delicate to walk on!
Some of the small gifts in the Kotoku-in gift shop. The sleep mask on the bottom right says “Kamakura!!” with an adorable emoticon face!
Check out the Kamakura Daibutsu, it’s well worth the little extra money it takes to get there and it can lead to a whole day of shopping and exploring. There are many small shops and restaurants to check out — have fun!

Check out the “Temple U Japan” student study abroad blog, where this post first debuted, at: https://templejapan.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/a-must-visit-in-japan-daibutsu/


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