36 Views of the Ushiku Daibutsu

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.
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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.
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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.

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The statue weighs 4000 tons, and its outstretched left palm alone is 18 m long.

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Last year I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Big Red Dot Out of Ruins, called 13 Views of Fuji Terebi, Odaiba. Inspired (?) by Hokusai, he took a series of photos of the Fuji Terebi Building, one of Odaiba’s most famous landmarks. I thought it was a great idea to bring some creativity to photos – taking multiple views of the same object to make completely different images with different moods or aspects, so I decided to try it out here.

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These Chinese characters say Daibutsu (Great Buddha).

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Careful counters will notice that there are not actually 36 photos in this series, but Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mt. Fuji are actually 46 in number, so I figured it was okay if I had a slightly different number of photos too. I guess “How many pictures are there in Hokusai’s 36 views of Mt. Fuji series” would make a good “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb” or “How long was the hundred years war” type of trivia question.

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This is a honbyou (mausoleum) in the cemetery around the Buddha statue. It contains the remains of the sect’s founder.

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Another shot of the honmyou.

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The park is filled with beautiful flowers, and is especially lovely in from late-April to the end of May when the poppies and marigolds are in bloom around a lake in front of the daibutsu.

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Seems you can never escape powerlines in Japan.

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This hand position symbolizes the omnipresence of the Amida Buddha.

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Buddhas are often depicted standing on a lotus blossom. The lotus is a symbol of enlightenment because it is a beautiful flower that grows out of the mud, as the Buddha arises above the defilement and suffering of the physical world.

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The cheapest plots are over 10,000 dollars for 33 years, and a tiny concrete marker with an area of less than half a square meter is over 3,000 dollars.

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When it was built, the Ushiku Daibutsu was the largest statue in the world. Now there are a couple that are larger.

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There’s a beautiful Japanese garden as well.

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Admission to the park costs 500 yen. If you pay an additional 300 yen, you can go inside the Buddha, but I don’t recommend it. It’s pretty cheesy inside, and you have to wait for quite a while for the elevator. When you get to the top, there are just some tiny slit windows to look through.

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On the second floor is a collection of Buddha statues in memory of people who have died. They go for anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, but they actually look kind of cheap.

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I really enjoyed the Ushiku Daibutsu. It was a fantastic place to take photographs, but I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed it so much without my camera. The grounds are pretty nice to walk around, but except for a monkey show aimed at kids, a petting zoo, and the garden, there isn’t that much to do. It’s over an hour from Tokyo by train, and you have to ride an infrequently-running bus for about 20 minutes after that.

Getting there:
Take the JR Joban Line from Ueno Station to Ushiku. It takes about 50 minutes and costs 950 yen. From the station, take the Kanto Tetsudo Bus bound for Ushiku Daibutsu.It takes 25 minutes and costs 500 yen.

From Ushiku Station:
Weekdays: 9:40, 11:35, 12:55, 13:50, 15:20
Weekends: 9:00, 9:40, 10:00, 11:00, 11:35, 12:00, 12:55, 13:00, 13:50, 15:00, 15:30, 16:00, 17:00 (buses on the hour are direct to the Daibutsu)

From the Daibutsu:
10:20, 13:00, 13:45, 14:45, 16:10
Weekends: 9:30, 10:20, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 13:45, 14:30, 14:45, 15:30, 16:10, 16:30, 17:30 (buses on the half hour are direct back to the station)

Official Site: http://daibutu.net/index.html (Japanese only)
The cemetery’s website: http://www.bosan.net/index.html (Japanese only)

0 replies
  1. GL Rai-Zimmdar
    GL Rai-Zimmdar says:

    There is need to emphasise the historical aspect of the time and life of the Buddha, that he was a Kirati-Mongolian Prince of Nepal, the Lion of the Sakyas.

    I shall consider it a privilege to initiate the discussion.

  2. kenda
    kenda says:

    I am in Japan now working in a high school and I went to Takaoka recently. I loved looking at your pictures because the giant statues of the Daibutsu are really beautiful to me, I have been to Todai-ji and I am also going to the Daibutsu and maybe Kannon in Kamakura.

    Lovely pictures!

  3. Rick Matz
    Rick Matz says:

    Beautiful pictures.

    I’m glad that I Stumbled upon your blog. I’ll be reading regularly.

    While looking at your pictures, I couldn’t help but feel that Godzilla was going to come stomping through at some point.

    Best Regards,

    Rick

  4. Will
    Will says:

    That is an insanely big buddha, dwarfs the daibutsu in kamakura. Last week I was in Hong Kong and visited the largest seated Buddha in the world, but I reckon the Ushiku standing one is a lot bigger.

    Great pics

    Will

  5. chlorohydra
    chlorohydra says:

    I was there today and found it very nice, peaceful and breathtaking. Some parts inside the Buddha were really cheesy and cheap (as you said) but still interesting. A bus costed 660 yens this time…
    Your pictures are beautyfull!

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Nice pictures but please have some respect. Amida is GOD in Buddhism and 90 per cent of Japanese PRAY to Amida during funerals. AMIDA is far more conpassionate than the Bible God so do not be a typical Gaijin and make light of the Daibutsu. Many would like to pay 3 bucks more to go inside and see the small Buddhas – have some respect for us Buddhists please. Thanks

    Namo Amida Butsu 🙂

  7. Panchen Lama
    Panchen Lama says:

    Nice pictures but please have some respect. Amida is GOD in Buddhism and 90 per cent of Japanese PRAY to Amida during funerals. AMIDA is far more conpassionate than the Bible God so do not be a typical Gaijin and make light of the Daibutsu. Many would like to pay 3 bucks more to go inside and see the small Buddhas – have some respect for us Buddhists please. Thanks

    Namo Amida Butsu 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The Ushiku Daibutsu is a huge Buddha statue in Ibaraki. (“Ushiku” is the name of the city.) It took ten years to build, and it’s the largest Buddha statue in Japan (not in the world–apparently, that’s in China). Wikipedia says it’s 394 feet tall 0_0 There’s a museum inside, with Buddha statues and artwork, and you can take an elevator to the top and see the view from Buddha’s chest. If you want to see exactly everything that’s inside, you can check out this page here. […]

  2. […] Ushika Daibutsu was completed in 1993 and stands at a breathtaking 120 metres (394 feet).  The bronze plated […]

  3. […] Odd sights in a Japanese Graveyard September 28, 2009 — qjphotos These graves are all from the Ushiku Joen, the cemetery around the Ushiku Daibutsu. […]

  4. […] Buddhism Buddhist Posted in Tokyo and the Kanto Region, Traditional Japan, Travel Destinations. Leave a Comment » Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Daibutsu – Giant […]

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