Temples and shrines are not the only places where one can learn about the religions of Japan. You may be surprised to know that “Daibutsu” (literally translated as Grand Buddha) statues are also historic treasures where one can also deepen one’s understanding of religion in Japan.
These large statues originated in 745, when the country was devastated by diseases, disasters and wars. In order to bring peace and the revival to the country, Emperor Shômu is said to have prayed and built the first Great Buddha in Todaiji Temple located in Nara.
The Gautama Buddha, a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded, is said to be about 4.85 meters tall, and Buddha statues of that height are called Jourokubutsu (丈六仏). In general Buddha statues that are bigger than Heng Lu Buddhas are called "Great Buddhas".
Witnessing a great Buddha statue is quite a sight to behold. However, many are not well-known in Japan, but there are many that are waiting to be discovered!
Below is a list places in Japan where you can find Great Buddhas, ranked according to their height:
Number 7: Shurakuen Park Great Buddha (Aichi Prefecture): 18.8m
The Shurakuen Buddha statue was created in 1927 to commemorate the marriage of Emperor Showa. A Nagoya businessman Yamada Saikichi built the statue which remains a symbol of the the city to this day. The pedestal has symbolic transparent stone buried underneath.
Shurakuen Park Great Buddha
Address: 2-1, Nishihazama, Arao Town, Tokai City, Aichi Prefecture 476-0003
Number 6: Showa Daibutsu (Aomori Prefecture): 21.4m
This Great Buddha statue was made in 1984, during the Showa Era. It is the tallest seated bronze statue of Buddha in Japan. Inside the statue, on the second floor, you will find a memorial stone in memory of people who died during the war and for the world peace, as well as the strong will of Buddhism to lead people’s minds towards the right path. Surrounded by many trees, this Great Buddha and its environment provides a relaxing atmosphere.
Address: 45, Aza-Yamazaki, Oaza-kuwabara, Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture 030-0935
Number 5: Hakuba Daibutsu (Niigata Prefecture): 23.5m
Hakuba Great Buddha was built in 1969 by Yoshitaka Kaneda (金田義孝), president of the Hakuba Tourist Hotel in the Hakuba Great Buddha Church, a religious organisation. The Hakuba Tourist Hotel has been closed and dismantled, but the Great Buddha is still maintained, although some facilities in the area are no longer in use, such as the stairs leading to the statue that are collapsing, so caution is required.
Address: 969, Odokoro, Itogawa City, Niigata Prefecture 949-0464
Number 4: Nagahama Biwako Daibutsu (Shiga Prefecture): 28.0m
Nagahama Biwako Daibutsu is located in Ryochu-ji Temple on Mt. Heian in Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture. Its first name was “Gokoku Amida Nyorai”. However, it became decrepit beyond repair and was therefore dismantled in 1992. The second Great Buddha was built in 1994 and named Nagahama Biwako Daibutsu.
Nagahama Biwako Daibutsu
Address: 86, Shimosakahama Town, Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture 526-0047
Number 3: Nihonji Daibutsu (Chiba Prefecture): 31.0m
Nihon-ji Daibutsu was founded in 725 by order of Emperor Shômu and monk Gyôki, following the directives of the Empress Kômyô. The main deity of the temple is the "Yakushi Nyorai(Buddha of Healing)". The Buddha of Healing and Medicine can relieve people from the pain by using the light of lapis lazuli. Its characteristic is holding a medicinal pot in its left hand.
Address: Nokogiri-yama, Kyonan Town, Awa District, Chiba Prefecture 299-1901
Number 2: Nanzoin Temple Reclining Buddha (Fukuoka Prefecture): 41.0m
For many years, Nanzoin Temple sent medical supplies, milk, stationeries, etc. to children in Myanmar and Nepal, and therefore received 3 types of Buddhas: Buddha, Ananda and Mokuren from the Buddhist Conference of Myanmar in 1995 as gifts in return. The buddha statue shown was built in 1995 and is commonly used in festivals.
Close up of the Nehanzo's giant feet at Nanzoin. Tourists often balance money offerings on the gold inlay designs and to rub the feet is said to bring financial prosperity 👣 . . . . . . . . #outsideisbest #kidswhotravel #japan #japantravel #nomad #beauty #seetheworld #adventure #travelwithkids #summertime #familyholiday #adventureswithkids #travellingwithkids #familyadventures #wrenaroundtheworld #wren #bringthekids #bucketlist #travellingsoul #wanderlust #seeingtheworld #showyourkidstheworld #travel #travelblogger #travelphotography #nehanzo #nanzoin #hakata #fukuoka #giantbuddha
The Buddha’s soles of the feet are called “bussoku” and are characterised by a strange pattern revealing one’s view of the universe.
Nanzoin Temple Reclining Buddha
Address: 1035, Sasaguri Town, Kasuya District, Fukuoka Prefecture 811-2405
Number 1: Ushiku Daibutsu (Ibaraki Prefecture): 120.0m
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Ushiku Daibutsu was built in 1992 by the monk of Higashi Honganji Temple. Since the Buddha is said to have 12 kinds of powers, it was built at 120 metres. In 1995, it was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest bronze statue in the world. Inside the Buddha, you can find some sutras, an observation floor, and also an exhibition of the model of a Buddha’s thumb. The statue is divided into 5 spaces.
By the way, even if we compare it with the Statue of Liberty, or some Japanese heroes, it is still this big.
Address: 2083, Kuno Town, Ushiku City, Ibaraki Prefecture 300-1288
Let’s go and see Great Buddhas!
We hope you enjoyed this article. Apart from Great Buddhas in Kamakura and Nara, there are also many other Great Buddhas waiting to be discovered! As well as just temples, shrines, castles or parks, we highly recommend checking out some of these Buddha statues and enjoying their rich historical background. An additional factoid - the top 2 largest statues in the world are Laykyun Setkyar in Myanmar, representing the Buddha at 129.5 metres, and The Spring Temple Buddha of Lushan County, Henan, China, with a height of 126 metres.
When you have discovered the Japanese Great Buddhas, let’s discover the other great Buddhas as well!