Kyushu's Stone Buddhas

Retracing early Buddhism in Japan

By Steve Morton   May 15, 2017 - 1 min read

Situated about 40 kilometers south of Beppu City in Kyushu's Oita Prefecture lies the sleepy castle town of Utsuki which probably wouldn’t feature high on anyone’s itinerary if not for its impressive stone Buddhas

Situated in a nearby valley, these statues are believed to date back from around the 12th to 14th Century. Officially known at Seki-butsu, these stone Buddhas are a series of religious statues which have been carved into the valley’s rock face. Comprising of about 60 statues in total and divided into four main cluster groups, this valley represents one of Japan’s earliest encounters with Buddhism. Because of Kyushu’s close proximity to Korea and mainland Asia, it’s highly probable that this was one of the first areas in the country to embrace this religion.

From Usuki Station, regular buses make the 15 minute journey to this valley. For the more adventurous visitor, it’s also possible to rent a bike from the small tourist office located directly outside of the station’s main ticket office

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