Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ushiku Daibutsu

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I travelled by an overnight sleeper train named Akebono and reached Ueno railway station on the morning of 31st March. We had a nice Japanese style breakfast at one of the restaurants near Ueno railway station, and then we visited a statue of Buddha named Ushiku Daibutsu. Ushiku Daibutsu is a standing statue of Buddha located in Ushiku city of Ibaraki prefecture. The statue is devoted to Monk Shinran who was the founder of Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism. It was built by the Honzan sect of Higashi Honganji Temple, whose headquarters is located near Kyoto railway station. It took about ten years to construct the statue and was completed in 1993. The statue is 120 meters high, which includes a 10 meter high base and a 10 meter high lotus platform. The statue depicts Amida Nyorai and is plated with bronze. It is also known as Ushiku Arcadia (Amida's Radiance and Compassion Actually Developing and Illuminating Area). Ushiku Daibutsu is one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world. In fact, according to the Guinness Book of Records of 1995, this statue is recognized as the tallest Buddha in the entire world. However according to the information available on the internet, presently it is the third largest Buddha statue in the world.

I had previously lived in Tsukuba city for almost nine years. Ushiku Daibutsu is located just 17 kilometers southeast of the apartment where I stayed in Tsukuba. However, I was very busy with research work those days and unfortunately never got an opportunity to visit the great Buddha. So this year on 31st March, hubby and I took advantage of the free time we had and went to see the statue of Buddha. In order to go to Ushiku Daibutsu, we took a train named Joban Line from Ueno railway station. It took around one hour to reach Ushiku railway station. From Ushiku station area, we took a taxi and after about 15 minutes of ride we reached Ushiku Daibutsu. We paid 800 Yen per person as admission fee to enter inside Ushiku Daibutsu premises.
Hubby standing near the entrance of the premises next to a stone monument with Ushiku Daibutsu written on it

Hubby is standing inside Ushiku Daibutsu premises just near the entrance area. The huge statue of the Buddha is seen in the background.


After walking past an entrance gate, we walked along a paved pathway inside Ushiku Daibutsu premises. After walking for a couple of meters, we realized that we could see the entire length of the awe-inspiring standing statue of Buddha. Walking further along the pathway for a few more meters, we reached an observation point that is most favored by the visitors for clicking photos of themselves along with the huge Daibutsu statue in the background. Adjacent to the observation point, there is a 1/1000 scale beautiful replica model of the Daibutsu's head. Next to this model we saw a stone monument inscribed with a copy of the document from the Guinness Book of Records recognizing Ushiku Daibutsu as the tallest Buddha statue in the entire world. Adjacent to this stone monument is a replica model of a hair-curl of the Daibutsu’s head. This model is 1 meter in diameter and weighs 200 kilograms. In fact, the replica has the same dimensions as the curls on the head of the Daibutsu. There are 480 such curls on the Daibutsu’s head. While walking along the pathway we saw several flowerbeds with colorful fresh flowers.
Standing statue of Ushiku Daibutsu as seen from inside the premises near the entrance gate

Hubby standing at the observation point along with the Daibutsu statue in the background

Daibutsu statue as viewed from the observation point

A 1/1000 scale (volume) replica model of the Daibutsu's head in the foreground and the real Daibutsu statue in the distance

I am standing next to the replica model of the Daibutsu’s head

Hubby standing next to a stone monument inscribed with the Guinness Book of Records recognition of Ushiku Daibutsu as the world’s tallest Buddha statue

Hubby standing next to the 1:1 scale replica model of a hair-curl of the Daibutsu’s head

Colorful flowers in a flowerbed along the walking pathway


After walking leisurely along the paved pathway for about ten minutes, we reached the main gate of the premises named Hakken-mon Gate. I rang a bell located near this gate and then we walked past this gate. And right in front of us we saw the front view of the magnificent 120 meters tall statue of Ushiku Daibutsu. This statue is made of a huge steel frame which is then affixed with 6000 bronze squares. Each bronze square is 4 meters wide, 4 meters in length, and only 6 millimeters thick. The incredibly huge size of the Daibutsu can be comprehended from various statistical facts about the statue. It weighs 4003 tons, the face is 20 meters long, each eye is 2.55 meters long, each ear is 10 meters long, the nose is 1.2 meters long, the mouth is 4.5 meters long, and the left hand is 18 meters long. We walked along the concrete pathway towards the statue. As we neared the statue, we started seeing various details and finer points of the statue. There is a huge bell located near the statue and hubby rang it once. I compiled a video of me ringing the bell near Hakken-mon Gate and hubby ringing the huge bell near the Daibutsu statue. A few meters ahead, we saw a large incense stick burner called Daikoro. As we walked past Daikoro, we stood right below the statue. We could clearly see the serene facial expressions of the Daibutsu, and the interesting mudra pose of the Buddha’s hands. We walked around the statue in a clockwise direction and reached the backside of the statue. We took several photos of the statue from various positions and angles for memory sake.
Hakken-mon Gate as viewed from a height of 85 meters from inside the Daibutsu statue

I am standing on the concrete pathway along with the huge statue in the background

Ushiku Daibutsu statue standing on a 10 meter high base and a 10 meter high lotus platform

More details of the statue

The statue, Daikoro in the center, and the bell to the right side of the photo

Bell

A compiled video of me ringing the bell located near Hakken-mon Gate and hubby ringing the huge bell near the Daibutsu

Daikoro

The statue and Daikoro

We almost reached near the statue

Serene facial expressions and the right hand mudra pose of the Daibutsu

Left hand mudra pose of the Daibutsu

Photo clicked from right below the statue

Photo clicked while walking around the statue in a clockwise direction


At the backside of the statue, there is an entrance gate to enter inside the statue itself. The statue is a four storied building. The first floor is called the ‘World of Infinite Light and Life’. We entered the first floor lobby that is totally dark, which symbolizes the dark world. Then we heard a voice talking about Amida Nyorai giving light through wisdom to the people in darkness. As we walked forward, we entered a room that is not in total darkness. In the center of this room, a single shaft of light shines from above which is accompanied by a very peaceful music. This floor is dark but has many flickering lights and Buddha images in a variety of colored lights. Such a dark and serene atmosphere makes us contemplate about life. As we walked further in the darkness, we saw an elevator to the other floors.
Entrance gate at the backside of the Daibutsu to enter inside the statue

Darkness along with flickering lights and Buddha images in a variety of colored lights at the first floor

A statue of Buddha in the center of the room at the first floor

I am enveloped in darkness punctuated by flickering lights

Photos and statues giving information about Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Ushiku Daibutsu

I am walking towards the elevator to go to the second floor


Next we went to the second floor located at a height of 10 meters above ground. This floor is called the ‘World of Gratitude and Thankfulness’. This floor is dedicated to sutra scriptures. In addition, there are a lot of photographs, panels, and models depicting how the statue was constructed and various stages of its construction. Also, we saw two 1/100 scale prototype models of the Daibutsu at this floor. The prototype models depict how the statue made of bronze will continue to corrode and change color over the years (after 50 to 100 years) from the new bronzite color to oxidized greenish bronze color.





Several panels and photos depicting various stages of the construction of Ushiku Daibutsu


Hubby standing next to a 1:1 scale model of a toe of the Daibutsu

Hubby standing next to the new bronzite colored (left side) and the corroded greenish bronze colored (right side) 1/100 scale prototype models of the Daibutsu


Next, we went to the fourth floor located at a height of 80-85 meters above ground. This floor is called the ‘Room of Mount Grdhrakuta’. We saw a Busshari stupa which is said to hold the relics of Shakyamuni. We moved around inside this floor and saw many panels depicting the detailed history of Buddha in India. There is also a panel containing the document from the Guinness Book of Records recognizing Ushiku Daibutsu as the tallest Buddha statue in the world. While walking around this floor, we felt the entire statue shake slowly but continuously. I was ok with it but hubby felt rather sick. The slow continuous shaking of the statue was due to a very strong spring storm with typhoon-strength winds blowing in and around Ushiku city that day. In fact prior to entering inside the statue, two staff members had warned us about the shaking. On this floor there are narrow slit windows in the Daibutsu’s chest from where we got lovely views of the premises and the surroundings. It was a unique experience. In addition, this floor houses a small souvenir shop having originals goods and postcards related to the Daibutsu. We bought a pair of cute Jizou statues.
Central portion of the fourth floor

Hubby standing at central portion of the fourth floor

Busshari stupa

A panel containing the Guinness Book of Records document recognizing the Daibutsu as the tallest Buddha statue in the world

Hubby feeling uncomfortable due to the continuous slow shaking of the Daibutsu

Hubby standing next to a slit window in the Daibutsu’s chest

A cemetery as viewed from the fourth floor

Hakken-mon Gate and the concrete pathway as viewed from the fourth floor

Concrete pathway and Daikoro

A pair of Jizou statues we bought at the souvenir shop


Next, we went down the elevator to the third floor located at a height of 20-30 meters above ground. This floor is called the ‘World of the Lotus Sanctuary’. This floor is circular in shape and all golden. The circular wall of this entire floor is fitted with small rectangular golden alcoves. Almost all of these alcoves are adorned with a miniature golden Buddha. We were dazzled and mesmerized by seeing about 3300 miniature golden Buddha statues. We took a few photos of this floor with golden color all around us. Hubby took a video of me walking around this floor and seeing the miniature Buddha statues.
Entrance to the third floor

Wall adorned with miniature golden Buddha statues to the left side of the entrance

Wall adorned with miniature Buddha statues to the right side of the entrance

A few of the golden Buddha statues in the alcoves

Portion of the circular wall of the third floor adorned with many miniature golden Buddha statues

Praying area

A compiled video of me walking on the third floor and seeing miniature Buddha statues


Afterwards we went down the elevator to the first floor, exited the statue, and left Ushiku Daibutsu premises. We loved visiting Ushiku Daibutsu. Later in the day we took a Shinkansen bullet train to go to hubby’s ancestral home near Nagoya. We stayed there for two days and then returned back to Akita by a small turboprop airplane.
Photo taken from inside the turboprop airplane

6 comments:

subhorup dasgupta said...

Thanks for this beautiful and detailed guided tour of this wonderful statue. I am new to your blog, so it is possible I am missing a lot of the context, but still thought I would leave a comment to express my appreciation for taking so much time and effort to share your journey with us, and so well too. The pics and the text are both very wonderfully put up, and though I have personal interest in Buddhism, it was easy to read and engaging. I did not know about Jodo Shinshu. THanks for sharing.

Laya's Blog said...

Manisha, I came back to your blog after a long time. It was inspiring and interesting as usual. The pictures are good and the quaint Japanese names and statues are really beautiful. I enjoyed reading your blog.

Laya

Princess Dieter said...

Thank you for this. I enjoyed sightseeing vicariously. The photo of your hubby with the toe replica was excellent--really gives a startling sense of the scale. And the hair curl. :D I liked the sound of the second, deeper bell. Nice.

Fun photos. thank you.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Subhorup Dasgupta for liking the statue and the virtual tour. Please do visit the blog and go through the older posts whenever you have time and mood. Hubby and I love visiting historical places. I also know only a little bit about Buddhism from reading pamphlets and internet.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Laya for your nice comment and for liking the post. Yeah, I missed your comments on my blog posts. Please do visit the blog whenever you have time.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Princess Dieter for enjoying the virtual tour. The statue is really huge. Yeah I know, I too smiled when I saw the hair curl :) The second bell is huge and such bells usually have strong deep sound. Here hubby rang the bell very lightly but still the sound is very strong.