Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha)
If size matters, Kamakura’s bronze-cast idol proves that bigger is better.
For a country that is synonymous with all things compact, the iconic Kamakura Daibutsu – nicknamed the Great Buddha – was no small feat to build back in the 13th century.
Drawing inspiration from the Nara Daibutsu housed at Todai-ji Temple, the Kamakura Buddha towers at a rivaling height of approximately 44 feet (roughly 13 meters) and weighs in at a whopping 93 tons.
But even bigger than its size was the unwavering devotion to construct, time and again, the image of the Enlightened One.
Founder of the Kamakura Shogunate (the region’s governing samurai), Yoritomo Minamoto was also a patron for the religious arts and wanted to demonstrate his power by constructing an equally powerful image of the worshipped deity. To fulfill the warlord’s wishes of leaving a legacy after his death, the Kamakura Daibutsu was founded entirely on donations from Minamoto fans.
Finally cast in 1252, the statue was reconstructed three times until 1452. The Great Buddha has been serenely sitting in the lotus position on the grounds of the Kotoku-in Temple ever since.
Yoritomo Minamoto was also a patron for the religious arts and wanted to demonstrate his power by constructing an equally powerful image of the worshipped deity.
Another colossal monument on display at the temple is a pair of straw zori sandals made to fit the feet of the big Buddha. While donating straw sandals is a practice with a long-standing tradition, adorning oversized footwear (called waraji) is an expression of gratitude and prayer for safe travels. (And “lower-body health” back when feet were the only means of getting around.)
You can venture inside the hollow body of the statue for a relatively small fee. But beware that the statue interior can reach sweltering temperatures in the summertime.
Stop by Kotoku-in Temple’s souvenir shop to take home a pocket-sized souvenir of the Kamakura Daibutsu. Or follow your nose to the sweet scent of manju (a cake filled with red bean paste) baked in the image of the big man himself.