I first saw the Ushiku Daibutsu in the quirky movie, Shimotsuma Monogatari (Japanese: 下妻物語), which is called Kamikaze Girls in English. You can see the Daibutsu in the hilarious first ten minutes of the movie here. It’s in Ibaraki Prefecture, where I used to work, a place I thought was the about the most God-awful area in Japan. The Ibaraki that I saw in Shimotsuma Monogatari, though, was a strangely beautiful, surreal piece of countryside, and I started to wonder if I’d been blinded by the misery of a job I hated. There was only one way to find out, so last weekend, I headed to Ushiku.
It turned out to be right up there in terms of quirkiness with almost anything else Japan has to offer – a giant Buddha statue some 36 stories tall in the middle of nowhere, built by a famous Kyoto temple seemingly as a promotional gimmick for a giant graveyard.
The Great Buddha was built by the Higashi Honganji Temple, whose headquarters is one of the two big temples in front of Kyoto Station. It’s called ARCADIA in English, which stands for Amida’s Radiance & Compassion Actually Developing & Illuminating Area.
The statue weighs 4000 tons, and its outstretched left palm alone is 18 m long.