Kamakura Trip Home ＞ Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura)
The symbol of Kamakura: the Great Buddha of Hase
The Daibutsu is the only Buddha statue designated as a national treasure in Kamakura
Commonly known as "Big Buddha" or "Great Buddha" in English, large statues of meditating Buddhas are called daibutsu in Japanese. Although the famous Daibutsu statue in Kamakura is officially known as "Kamakura Daibutsu", it is also widely known by the name Daibutsu of Hase because it resides within Kotoku-in Temple, which is in an area called Hase. Unexpectedly, this Daibutsu is the only one among so many Buddha statues in Kamakura that is a designated National Treasure. Many important cultural properties were damaged by fire during wars in the medieval period. However, the Daibutsu of Hase had been carefully repaired to keep its original form, thus causing it to be highly valued as a cultural asset and earning the status of National Treasure by the Japanese government.
The history of Kamakura Daibutsu
Though famous, many facts about Kamakura Daibutsu remain unknown since no precise historical records related to the building of the Daibutsu can be found. What little is known is that it is said that the priest Joko gathered donations from the locals in order to erect it. The statue was first made out of wood and was sheltered inside a Great Buddha Hall, but they were destroyed by windstorms. Then in 1252 (Kencho 4), the hall was re-erected to house a new Daibutsu made of bronze. After that, the hall collapsed twice more due to windstorms, but it was rebuilt each time. However, in 1489 (Meio 7) a great tsunami washed the hall away, leaving the bronze Daibutsu sitting under the sun ever since. The large cornerstones of the past main halls can still be seen surrounding the Great Buddha today.
Visiting the interior of the statue
You can go inside of the statue. It is highly recommended that you do. The entrance is on the right-hand side of the Daibutsu as you approach it from the front. It is clear from the lattice pattern on the interior walls that the Daibutsu was made from a series of more than 30 separate castings that were pieced together like a puzzle. This technique was surprisingly advanced for the era in which it was built. If you look at the Daibutsu's neck from the inside, you can see evidence that it was strengthened using reinforced plastics during repair work done in 1960 (Showa 35).
“Gekkyuu-den” was a building that was originally part of the Royal Palace of the Joseon Dynasty in Seoul on the Korean Peninsula. It was relocated to Tokyo, Japan and later renamed Kangetsu-do Hall("Viewing-the-moon" Hall). In 1924 (Taisho 13), Kisei Sugino, the first president of Yamaichi Securities, donated the Hall from his home in Meguro, Tokyo and had it relocated to Kotoku-in Temple.
The waka-inscribled tablet of Akiko Yosano
The poet Akiko Yosano (1878~1942), known for her poetic anthologies called Midare Gami, wrote the following waka (a 31-syllable Japanese poem) when she visited Kamakura in 1904 (Meiji 37):
Here in Kamakura
the sublime Buddha is of another world,
but how like a handsome man he seems
adorned with the green of summer.
Known as a passionate poet, it only seems fitting that she would describe the Daibutsu as a "handsome man".
Address: 4-2-28 Hase, Kamakura City
Access: Take the enoshima electric railway from Kamakura and get off at Hase Station. It is a 7-minute walk from the station
Click here for a detail map
Official Website: Kamakura Daibutsu-den Kotokuin Website