Brought Back to Life: The Symbolic Reconstruction of Fukusai-ji Temple

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  • A very old temple has been standing in Nagasaki since the mid-1600’s which harkens back to a hint of ancient mythology. It is currently known as Fukusai-ji Temple. It was reconstructed in the shape of a turtle which is known to be its iconic symbol. The shape is deeply related to the temple’s role as a mausoleum for the Japanese people who lost their lives in World War II.

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    The Reconstruction of the Temple

    fukusaiji side

    Fukusai-ji Temple’s location used to be the place of an old temple founded in 1628. However, due to the atomic bomb which was dropped on the city in 1945, the temple was completely obliterated. Since then, a new temple was built in its place bearing the name of Fukusai-ji Temple. The reconstruction came in the shape of a turtle with an 18-meter high statue of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, made of aluminum alloy.

    Another striking feature is the giant turtle which Kannon stands on also made of shining aluminum. The design has been inspired by the turtle-back tombs in Okinawa which became a predominant style of the era. These tombs were the basis of the novel by Tatsuhiro Oshiro, a novelist and playwright, whose work of fiction Kame Kobaka is named for them.

    The Foucault Pendulum

    fukusaiji pendulum

    Besides being built as a zen temple, Fukusai-ji Temple remains a memorial site of 16,500 casualties of World War II. Their remains are buried in the site with a 25-meter Foucault Pendulum swinging above. It is one of the largest pendulums in the world. It hangs all the way down from Kannon’s interior which has been made to spin with its weighted end. It symbolizes eternal peace just like earth’s perpetual movement and rotation. It is reportedly the only pendulum to have been found in an active place of worship.

    Fukusai-ji Temple is a brave reminder that not even an atomic bomb can destroy unity and oneness. It is something interesting to dig deeper into if you want to take a closer look at Japanese history.

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