Discover Japanese Buddhism Visiting These 3 Popular Giant Buddhas

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  • Since Buddhism came to Japan by way of the Silk Route it has permeated the Japanese way of life. Although most Japanese people are very hesitant in committing themselves to a particular religion, it is clear that Buddhism is one of the two predominating religions, as you can see many Buddha statues all over the country. Some of the statues are even bigger than multiple-story buildings, and these impressive figures of faith are called Giant Buddhas or ‘Daibutsu’.

    Gifu Great Buddha


    The Gifu Great Buddha is one of the large Buddha statues in Japan, and it is located in Gifu Prefecture. This Buddha was once built because of the wish of a head priest named Ichyuu. By building this statue, he hoped to avert further famines and earthquakes, which were rampant during that time. As it wasn’t completely finished when Ichyuu’s died in 1815, it was completed by another priest named Kohshuu. Overall it took 38 years to complete this impressive statue made out of bamboo, clay, and lacquer (a wood finish).

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    The Sleeping Buddha

    The Sleeping Buddha of Nanzoin Temple in Fukuoka Prefecture is considered to be the world’s biggest bronze statue. It is resting in a reclining position, and about the size of the Statue of Liberty. It is about 41 meters in length and 11 meters tall. It weighs around 300 tons. The statue holds the ashes of Buddha inside, together with those of Ananda and Maudgalyayana who were important disciples. It is cleaned on a yearly basis by a hundreds of devout Buddhists, who use bamboo leaves attached to poles to restore the Buddha to its beautiful self.

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    At the Todai-ji temple in Nara, you can find the Birushana Buddha. It is said to have originated in India, and it commemorates the deity of the Great Illuminating One. The story of its creation started with Birushana Nyorai, a Buddhist deity who arrived in Japan a long time ago. Because Birushana was regarded as the true Body of the Buddha, of having encompassed everything in the cosmos, a statue was built for him which was finished around 752 AD. Now it has found its place in Nara, in the Todai temple.

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    If you are in Japan and would like to get to know more about Buddhism, or just want to see a beautiful and impressive cultural asset, visiting one of the Great Buddha statues is a good way to start!

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