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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

The photo above is one I took of the Great Buddha of Kamakura.

I've actually had to futz around with it because the original photo sitting in my album is so dull, it's damn near impossible to view it. It's what happens when black and white film is accidentally processed as color. So, thanks to the modern miracles of an HP Live Photo Gallery program, I was able to adjust the photo to exactly what the photo looked like when I took snapped it 20 years ago. Don't worry... I'll present the original photo down below for comparison purposes.

So... just what the hell are we all looking at? The gaijin (foreigner), of course. But seriously, this is the Great Buddha (大仏 Daibutsu), a huge outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is a very famous iconic image of Japan.

Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright sits on the far left.
Built in 1252,  the bronze statue was cast by either  Gorōemon Ōno (surname first) or Hisatomo Tanji (surname first), who were the leading casters at that time.

Now, just so you know... Japan has been hit with some nasty storms in the past 600 years. For example, the hall covering the statue was destroyed by a storm in 1334, was rebuilt, damaged by another storm in 1369, and was rebuilt again. The last building housing the statue was washed away by a tsunami that hit on September 20th, 1498, and has since that time the Buddha has sat out in the open. 

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 destroyed the base of the statue, but it was repaired in 1925. Maintenance repairs to the statue were carried out in 1960-1961, when the neck was strengthened and measures were taken to protect it from earthquakes. See photo just above to see how the Buddha's neck is at an angle looking slightly to the right in this 1920's photo.

Some facts about the general make-up of this hollow statue:
  • Weight - 121 tonnes (270,000 pounds);
  • Height - 13.35 meter (43.8 feet);
  • The statue was gilded in gold leaf, but nowadays, should you feel lucky, you can find traces of it near the Buddha's ears.
The statue resides in the Kōtoku-in (高徳院) Buddhist temple of the Jōdo-shū sect in Kamakura-shi (Kamakura City) in Kanagawa-ken (Kanagawa Prefecture), Japan.

How awesome was the Buddha? Well, it was pretty nice despite it being crawled all over by people. You can even enter the Buddha (I think you go in through his ass). There were also a score of bloody tourists. And it was raining that day (of course). You may remember me as the star of the movie "Singing In The Rain", as I played the rain man (ame otoko), as it always rained whenever I traveled about Japan. Still, in the photo, it was only just about to rain... so I got lucky.

Oh! And here's the original photo before the touch-up. I love the original because it makes it look like the photo was taken 100 years ago:

And, here's a color photo I found on Notice how the mountainous area YOUR right of the statue is a lot higher in the color photo than in my photo(s). The difference of 20 years? 

Andrew Joseph


  1. I used to live in Konan-chuo which is twenty minutes away from this statue and have been there many times. Nice place. I have even been inside the statue... It was, well, like the inside of a statue... The best thing to do around there is drink beer and eat Yakitori. The most terrible thing to do around Kamakura is to go into the mountains just up to the right side of your photo and crawl around in the tunnels the Buddhist priests built inside those mountains hundreds of years ago. You can crawl around in the tunnels all you want to if you like. I did once and I will never do that again. For one, those priests long ago were little guys (and skinny as hell) so the tunnels are quite narrow (you have to crawl and could never stand up). Not only that, they seem to go for hundreds of meters through the mountains so once inside, they are so tight that you can't turn back even if you wanted to. I almost freaked out with having a claustrophobic experience and just had to close my eyes and crawl my way out to the other side.... No sir. Ain't doing that again... Never... Not even for money!

  2. Wow... that sounds like a weird trek. Was there anything IN the mountain to see? Did the monks LIVE in these tunnels? I assume the tunnels were dug from rock... makes one wonder how long it took for them to do that, and even if many people died while doing so...