Kamakura Daibutsu Quick Facts

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A few interesting FYIs about Kamakura’s most famous resident.

*Kamakura’s Daibutsu is Amida-Butsu (Amitabha Buddha), of the Jodo Sect of Buddhism.

*He’s designated as a National Treasure.

*The original Kamakura Daibutsu was made of wood, but was destroyed in a typhoon only a few years after completion (circa 1247).

*The rebuilt Daibutsu (casting began in 1252) is made of bronze, is 11.3 metres tall (platform not included), and weighs 121 tonnes.

*The Kamakura Daibutsu (both the wooden and the bronze) were funded entirely by donations—no official funds went into construction.

*The Daibutsu used to be housed in a hall, but after collapsing (and being rebuilt) three times due to typhoons and tsunami, the Daibutsu was left to sit under the sun.

*He might look sleepy, but he’s watching—each eye is one metre wide.

*And that hair! There are 656 curls on his head. (Wait! Did you think the Buddha was bald, tubby and always laughing? That’s actually Hotei-sama, the god of abundance and good health. You can see him—and rub his tummy or head—at Jochi-ji in Kita-Kamakura).

*Wondering about that strange bump on his forehead? It’s a byakugo, a “round protuberance of clockwise-curled silver hair located between the eyebrows… said to shine light on the people of the world…” (Kotoku-in website)

*And is that dirt on his cheeks? No, that’s gold! Kamakura’s Daibutsu was once completed gilded.

*…But he’s seen hard times, too. After falling into disrepair in the centuries after the Kamakura Shogunate fell, gamblers and vagrants began living inside his bronze shell.

**To see a short (and neat!) video on how the Daibutsu was cast, visit Kotoku-in’s website. (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

 

Sources:

The Kotoku-in website (http://www.kotoku-in.jp/index.html)

Kamio, Kenji, and Willson, Heather. An English Guide to Kamakura’s Temples & Shrines. Japan. Ryokufu Shuppan, Inc. 2008.

Mutsu, Iso. Kamakura: Fact and Legend. Singapore. Tuttle Publishing.1995.

Ohno, Akemi. Guide to Kamakura. Japan. Kamakura Shunju-sha Co., Ltd. 2014.

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