Kamakura’s Daibutsu is a beautiful bronze statue built in the mid-13th century (750 years ago). He has been meditating under the sky for about 500 years of those years, after losing the shelter he was originally housed in. When you visit, you might see him soaked in rain, or sweating under the glaring sun, or just enjoying the warm spring sunshine. Whenever you come, his expressive face will touch your heart. Kamakura’s Daibutsu has been kept intact, without any large-scale restorations since it was built.
Beginning in the early 13th century, the Kamakura Shogunate regulated the city’s institutions and facilities. Buddhism ruled the country, so they built temples at the north, south, east, and west corners of Kamakura to receive the protection of the Buddha. It was also thought that they needed a symbol of the newly established capital. This was the Daibutsu.
According to the official record of Kamakura Shogunate “Azuma Kagami” 『吾妻鏡』, the construction of a wooden Daibutsu began in 1238 and the ceremony to celebrate the completion was held in 1243. But in 1252, they cast a second Daibutsu.
See the fleck of gold leaf on the Daibutsu’s right cheek? The original Daibutsu was entirely covered in gold. Kamakura’s Daibutsu was made of bronze (68.7% copper, 9.3% tin, 19.6% lead) and so it was impossible to plate using the techniques of the era. Instead, they attached gold leaves directly to the body.
The length between the inner and outer corner of the eye is about one meter. The ears are 1.95 meters tall. This impressive statue is 13.35 meters tall and weighs 121 tons. It was created step by step, in more than ten incremental pouring, starting from the bottom and moving up to the head. You can even see the linear borders of each pouring.
You might notice the several stones scattered around the statue. The surface of these stones is flat. They are thought to have been the foundation stones of the building that once housed Daibutsu. That building was destroyed and rebuilt before they finally decided to leave Daibutsu outside under the moon and the sun. At one time, there were thirty-two bronze lotus petals at the base of the statue, but today only four remain, and they are no longer in place.
You can reach Daibustu in three ways, by the Enoden (tram), by bus, and by foot. If you choose the Eno-den, please get off at Hase Station. After passing through the ticket gate, turn right and walk for 7 minutes. If you take a bus, the bus will leave from an East gate terminal (#1 or #6). Pay when you get off at the front of the bus. The fare will be 190 yen. Get off at the “Daibutsu-mae” stop, the one after Hase Kannon. This bus stop is a bit tricky. After you get off the bus, walk back in the direction your bus just came from, and cross the street at the signal. The entrance to Daibutsu is on the left. If you get there in the afternoon, you’ll be fine—just follow the crowds. But if you are an early bird, and no one is there in the morning, it might be confusing. Finally, if you follow a map, walking to Daibutsu is quite easy. You can enjoy a nice stroll. The back streets of Kamakura are beautiful!
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