Kyoto’s female "Giant Buddha."
While visitors flock to nearby Nara to see the giant Buddha there, it is easy to forget that Kyoto also has a similarly massive buddha. Smiling peacefully down from 24 meters up, the Ryozen Kannon may lack the age and height of its Nara neighbor, but it makes up for that in its cultural importance. The complex at Kyoto has a complicated, rich history associated with the after effects of the war and the people who perished in the Pacific theater.
The monument here is a giant statue of Kannon, a female Bodhisattva known for her compassion towards living things.
The area is littered with reminders of things that deserve this sacred entity’s compassion, including monuments for the souls of unborn babies; soil samples taken from cemeteries where the war dead were buried; and even a filing cabinet full of information about the people who perished in the Pacific from both sides.
If you would like to feel some of this area’s compassionate energy yourself, visitors are offered the chance to pay an extra ¥100 and burn incense to the dead.
Make a wish
For those that want to gain a blessing too, the giant orb on the grounds is said to manifest spiritual energy. Simply by rubbing this structure, making a wish and writing your desire on a circular piece of paper is said to convert your deepest desires into reality.
Similarly fortuitous are the statues hidden inside the Kannon statue itself. While the Nara Buddha is similarly hollow, it is filled with relics and visitors aren’t allowed to enter. Unlike the Buddha at Nara, visitors are encouraged to enter inside the body of the Kyoto Buddha and see the guardian statues inside. Each statue is distinguished by its association with a sign of the zodiac, meaning that you can find the one that is specific to you.
Two temples are better than one
Appropriately for one of Kyoto’s lesser known sights, there is a lot to uncover in the Ryozen Kannon complex. The best part is that this attraction can be easily combined with the nearby Zen Buddhist Kodai-ji temple.
Taking the path to these sights offers visitors the chance to see two of the under-appreciated Kyoto attractions in one for a day trip to enlighten your spirit.