Ushiku Daibutsu
 (The big Buddha of Ushiku)








Aurélien Baron, International Affairs Division

Construction time: 10 years.

Recognized as: the tallest Buddha in the entire world (in the Guinness Book from 1995)

"In Ushiku, this Daibutsu(大仏)stands magnificently with its 120 meters height."

What? You said 120 meters? Come on, you must be kidding. This would be 3 times as big as the Statue of Liberty. And yet, it does look incredibly big. But somehow it looks like another Buddha I think I saw somewhere else. Yes, it has a great resemblance with its much smaller model in Asakusa(浅草), at the Nishi-Honganji(西本願寺).

How could they achieve this gigantic Daibutsu in just 10 years? In Europe they needed decades and almost a century sometimes to build a church. Modern techniques are indeed incredible. They made a steal frame, then affixed 6,000 bronze squares, 6 millimeters thick (you read well! MILLIMETERS) and 4×4 meters wide. This is no hand-made job as you can imagine, cranes were used to lift the heavy squares (more than 150 kilos each) and assemble them together. The "final product" is Japanese but for the anecdote, the squares were made in Taiwan.

Well, this is quite a job that was done there. Look at the palm of the left hand of this Buddha! It is 18 meters long! That's right, the Buddha in Kamakura could sit in it. I am worried about one thing though . . . this Buddha is enormous, weighs 4,000 tons. What happens if an earthquake occurs? Well, this is Japan, and the guys who made it were very thoughtful. It is not supposed to fall. However, the steal frame could be twisted. . . .

So, what are the other particularities of this Daibutsu apart from its height?

First, this is a standing Daibutsu. You will notice in your travels through Japan that most of them are in a seated position. Not this one.

Second, the right foot is slightly moving forward, which means Buddha is actively going to help people. Moreover, his feet actually do not touch the ground. The Buddha walks on a bed of lotus flowers which separate it from our impure world, the Gense(現世), and world of the living.

The left hand

Third, the position of its hands have an important meaning. The left hand's palm, totally visible, refers to the helpful mind of Buddha(念仏衆生接種不捨 or Nenbutsu-Shujou- Sesshu-Fusha, as if it was saying: "I will help you. I will show you the path to Heaven". So, for those who misunderstood this and thought it was asking for money, you were WRONG. The hand is not asking for anything, the hand is giving help. I wish it would give money though . . . there is a car I would like to buy. . . .

The right hand

Jokes aside, the right hand is also very interesting and people familiar with the movie The Lord Of The Ring will surely find a stunning similitude. This hand forms a circle with the thumb and the index. This refers to the omnipresence of Buddha. Buddha is everywhere because it can see in every single direction, just like the eye in the above-mentioned film. Don't forget the name of the right hand, it is Koushou-Henshou- Jippou-Sekai. Not easy? Sorry, I thought it was. Here is the Kanji anyway for people interested in this: 光明編照十方世界.

Did you know that you can enter inside the Buddha? I am not lying. The Buddha contains many rooms worth seeing. The first one you can go into is totally dark. Obscurity in there lasts 50 seconds. A voice tells us in Japanese that Buddha gives his light through his wisdom to those who are lost, in the dark side. Buddha leads and gives life. In other words, this room symbolizes to the dark world (無明の世界 or Mumyou No Sekai).

After this introduction, you will have full access to the 5 floors inside the Daibutsu. The World of Infinite Light and Life (光りの世界 or Hikari No Sekai, the World of Gratitude and Thankfulness(知恩報徳の世界 or Chion-Houtoku No Sekai, the World of the Lotus Sanctuary蓮華蔵世界 or Renge-Zou-Sekaiand the Room of Mt. Grdhrakuta霊鷲山の間 or Ryouju-Sen No MaA full description of these floors could take ages. We chose to mention the World of Lotus Sanctuary. In a circular shape, this floor is filled with 3,300 images of Buddha. It is possible to meet the priest and pray there. In fact, many families have their own statuette of Buddha there. Smaller ones can cost 300,000 yen while the bigger ones reach 1 million yen. The room is all golden. However, the only place with real gold is where the priest sits. This floor represents the Pure Land.

However the Daibutsu is not all about Buddha. You have all around beautiful gardens and flowers and a pond where the fish are very popular among children. The zoo and the monkey stage close to the Daibutsu provide entertainment to kids not really involved in spirituality and Japanese culture. The Daibutsu welcomes about 190,000 visitors a year and is not very famous yet but its potentiality to attract visitors exists for sure. It is a nice place to go, surrounded by greenery, easy to access by shuttle bus from the Southern side of Ushiku station. Access will become easier by car from December. The new highway will be stopping by really close with the appearance of a new interchange.

Take a break and go to the Daibutsu, the only one of its kind. If the weather is fine, this is surely a good opportunity to visit it for really cheap! We recommend it!

Entrance fee from April to November: 500 yen/adult and 300 yen/children for anything but the inside visit of the Daibutsu. If you want to get inside too: 800 yen/adult and 400yen.

Entrance fee from December to March: 400 yen/adult and 200 yen/children (no inside visit) or 700 yen/adult and 400 yen/children (inside visit included)

Free entrance on New Year and August 15th (from 5 p.m.)

Thank-you so much to Tananashi-san, who kindly showed us around the Daibutsu