The Goddess of the White Robe

Towering over Ofuna, Kamakura

 By Larry Knipfing   Jan 18, 2012

Did you know that Kamakura has not just one, but two huge Buddhist statues within its environs?  One of course is the famous Great Buddha of Kamakura, near Hase Station on the Enoden Line. The other, not as well-known, is “The Goddess of Mercy of the White Robe.” This statue, a bust figure which is pure white and sits high up on a hill overlooking Ofuna Station, can be seen from miles. Commuters on the trains that go in and out of Yokohama and Tokyo coming from the direction of Kamakura and Fujisawa see this statue everyday. It is so large and white that it is impossible to miss.

History of the Statue

Whereas the Great Buddha of Kamakura is made of bronze, The Goddess of Mercy of the White Robe is made of concrete and stands 25 meters tall.  Amazingly, the original plan was for it to be a seated figure soaring 100 meters into the sky. But that plan was eventually cancelled. Funds were secured and in 1923 construction began. An interesting point is that all concrete in it was poured by hand. After delays caused by world financial crisis in the early 30s and by WWII, construction of the statue was finally completed—77 years later in 1960.

Although the grounds are not large, there are some very pretty temple buildings. I visited in the early morning (it opens at 9AM) when the air was still fresh and clear, so I enjoyed looking at the Goddess and at the surrounding countryside from high up on the hill.

Signing Up for Zen Training Sessions

According to the temple website there are also Zen training classes open to the public on the 18th of every month except May. Starting at 9 AM, the day begins with Zen meditation, chanting and prayer. This is followed by a cleaning of the grounds and facilities. A very light lunch and then other activities take place in the early afternoon. You can apply by email though a link on the site—by 3 PM of the previous day. The training session costs 1000 yen.

Written by Larry Knipfing
Japan Travel Partner

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