6 Must-See Buddha Statues in Japan

By Caitlin Hornik

Did you know Japan is home to some of the largest Buddha statues in the world?! Here are six not-to-be-missed Buddhas to incorporate into your next trip.

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Kamakura Daibutsu

Located in Kamakura just a short walk from the Hase train station is Kamakura Daibutsu. Meaning Great Buddha of Kamakura, Kamakura Daibutsu has been designated a National Treasure by the Japanese government. Construction on the Great Buddha began in 1252. When it was first built, the Great Buddha resided in a shrine known as Daibutsu-den Hall. However, ancient records reveal that the shrine was ruined as a result of two earthquakes and a typhoon in the 1300s and 1400s. Since then, the Great Buddha has remained outside and braved the elements on its own. The image of the Great Buddha, surrounded by cherry blossoms, has become iconic. Kamakura Daibutsu stands 43 feet tall and is the second-largest Buddha statue in Japan.

Nara Daibutsu

Located in Todaiji Temple in the Daibutsuden, or Big Buddha Hall, is the Nara Daibutsu. Todaiji Temple is the headquarters of the Kegon sect of Japanese Buddhism. The Daibutsuden is actually the world’s largest wooden building! This Buddha statue is different because it is a Cosmic Buddha, or Dainichi Nyorai. This Buddha was constructed during the Tempyo Period (729-764). This was a time when Buddhism influenced all spheres of Japan, including politics and culture. It only makes sense then that this Buddha is the largest bronze statue in Japan at over 52 feet tall. This particular pose represents the Buddha sitting in meditation for a week after achieving enlightenment.

Takaoka Daibutsu

Located in Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture, Takaoka Daibutsu is lauded as one of the three great Buddha statues in Japan. Standing over 52 feet tall (including its base) and weighing 65 tons, the Takaoka Daibutsu was built using traditional copperware techniques. The Takaoka area is known for producing copper pieces and ornaments used for temple building throughout Japan. The statue was completed in 1933 and took nearly a decade to construct. The original statue burned down in 1745, but the statue’s wooden head survived and is enshrined at the current statue. Takaoka Daibutsu is accessible via the Takaoka Station.

Ushiku Daibutsu

Located in Ibaraki Prefecture, Ushiku Daibutsu owned the Guinness World Record for being the tallest Buddha statue in the world. It stands over 393 feet tall, including its base and platform, and is equivalent to a 38-story building. This Buddha was built in 1993 to commemorate the birth of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Japanese Buddhism, Shinran. This Buddha is also known as the Ushiku Arcadia, standing for Amida's Radiance and Compassion Actually Developing and Illuminating Area. The interior of the statue serves as a museum with an elevator for visitors to take in the sights from 278 feet, or around the Buddha’s chest level.

Tokyo Daibutsu

The third-largest bronze Buddha in Japan is located in Jorenji Temple in Akatsuka, Itabashi City, Tokyo. It is 42 feet tall and weighs 32 tons. The Buddha was enshrined at Jorenji Temple in 1977 to commemorate victims of World War II, and also in honor of the victims of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. The hope was that by erecting this Buddha, the people of Japan would no longer suffer from wars, earthquakes, and other damage-causing events.

Fukuoka Buddha

Located in Fukuoka Prefecture at Nanzoin Temple, the Fukuoka Buddha is thought to be the largest bronze statue in the world. Measuring 36 feet tall, over 134 feet long, and weighing 300 tons, the reclining Buddha is not to be missed. The reclining Buddha pose is more common in Southeast Asian countries - including Thailand and Myanmar - than it is in Japan. This statue is also sometimes referred to as the Nehanzo Buddha because the reclining pose refers to the Buddha entering Nirvana, which is “nehan” in Japanese. This Buddha was constructed to house the ashes of the Buddha, which were gifted to the Nanzoin Temple by the Myanmar Buddhist Council. Visitors can pay a small fee to enter the prayer room located under the Buddha.

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