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Goin’ Japanesque!

Ushiku Daibutsu: Surprisingly Unknown, Japan’s Largest Budda

When you hear “daibutsu,” you may think of the giant buddhas at Nara and Kamakura, but there is another one that towers over them all. Despite being the largest buddha in Japan, however, its overall level of public recognition is surprisingly low. In today’s article, we’ll give you the scoop on the highlights of this peculiarly interesting tourism destination.

 

About the Ushiku Daibutsu

牛久大仏

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A standing buddha statue located in Ibaraki’s Ushiku, the Ushiku Daibutsu is both the third-largest standing statue and the largest bronze standing statue in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. In the midst of the open and almost-featureless Ibaraki countryside, this imposingly colossal buddha is all the more awe-inspiring.

 

The Size of the Ushiku Daibutsu by Comparison

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From the left: the Ushiku Daibutsu, the National Diet Building (Tokyo), the Statue of Liberty, the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Nara, https://www.flickr.com

There are a few famous examples that illustrate just how large this daibutsu is. To make an example, people often say that the Great Buddha at Nara could sit in the statue’s palm, or that it is three times the height of the Statue of Liberty (statue only).

Basic Profile for the Ushiku Daibutsu
 – Height: 120 meters
 – Total weight: 4,000 metric tons
 – Size of left hand: 18 meters
 – Size of face: 20 meters

 

Highlight #1: The Flower Garden at Its Feet

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At the foot of the daibutsu grows a flower garden based on an imagining of the paradise of the Pure Land (gokuraku-jōdo). It features a wide variety of colorful flowers that bloom throughout the seasons, and spring’s an easy contender for the best season to go and see them.

Highlight #2: The Full-scale Right Toe

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You’re actually able to enter into the Ushiku Daibutsu itself, which has a section that’s divided into five floors. Of the many great photo spots in the complex, one that’s definitely worth a shot or two is the full-scale right toe, which lets you actually feel first-hand (literally!) just how huge the statue is.

Highlight #3: The Inner Observatory

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Catch the elevator at the statue’s heel up past the 80 to 85 meter mark and you’ll arrive to the observatory inside the chest compartment. There are three slits along the chest that let you look out onto the scenery below.

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https://www.flickr.com

You’ll realize what a height you’re at when you gaze down to the tiny ribbon below and realize that was the main avenue you were just on. On clear days, you can even see as far as Mount Fuji and the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Highlight #4: The Ushiku Daibutsu Seen from Tokyo

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The daibutsu and Tokyo Sky Tree seen from Roppongi Hills, http://twitpic.com

Thanks to its sheer size, not only can you see Tokyo from the daibutsu’s observatory, on a clear day you can even see the daibutsu poking out from the horizon 60 km away when in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills.

Highlight #5: Rengezō-sekai

蓮華蔵世界

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On the third floor of the inner complex is a space called Rengezō-sekai (Universe of the Lotus Flower), rich with a sense of both serenity and quietude. Their number is a powerful sight when combined with the golden light that permeates the space, over 3,400 tainaibutsu (buddhas placed within a buddha) are arranged here row upon row.

Highlight #6: Sutra Copying Experience

写経

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You’ll also find an area set up for shakyō, a Japanese word describing the character by character devotional copying of the words of Buddha.

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https://www.flickr.com

It might seem quite intimidating at first, but the workshop involves simply tracing the outline of lightly-written kanji, so even complete beginners or oversea visitors not familiar with kanji will be able to participate without difficulty. The most important thing when doing shakyō is writing the characters carefully out one by one, filling each stroke with the spirit of your desire. Do so, and you’ll naturally come to be filled with a gentle calm. You’re sure to be surprised at just how beautifully the characters come out!

Highlight #7: Fireworks and Illumination

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During the summertime, events like illuminations and fireworks are held, transforming the world of this giant Buddha into an even more magical realm. What makes the Ushiku Daibutsu fireworks so special is that the whole event’s over in just five minutes. This means than in those brief five minutes, every ounce of firework power is poured out into the night sky. The keyword here is “intensity,” like nothing else you’d experience at any other firework show. It might be finished in what feels like an instant, but that simplicity itself gives you a nice feeling.

Related: Why Have Fireworks in the Summer? Japanese Sentiments and Traditions

 

Summary

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https://www.flickr.com

Look upon the epic scale of the Ushiku Daibutsu, and you’ll come to appreciate just how small your own worries are. It’s a place worth going on par with the most famous destinations in Japan, so we hope you’ll use the highlights we’ve introduced to you today as the foundation for a great trip! Information: Map

Related: Kamakura (Experiences) Edition: Info for a Memorable Trip!

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