For centuries, scholars, monks, priests and pundits have been debating one of the most pressing questions of Japanese Buddhism. It’s resolution has eluded generations and even now, many are haunted by it. It is, quite simply- Which is the best statue of Buddha?
Many criteria have been settled long before- age, location, artistic merits- even the apparent granting of miracles. Yet only now has the answer to this issue come forth in a way clear and undeniable. In a long search, it has at last been found- the issue finally decided. So I am pleased to hereby announce the winner. It is…
The Kenkon-Zan Nihon-Ji Daibutsu of Nokogiri-Yama in Chiba Prefecture.
Quite simply, at 31m high, it is by far the biggest, outpacing the 18m Daibutsu in Nara and the 13m one in Kamakura by quite a margin! The biggest- and therefore the best! So a big ‘Omedeto’ (congratulations) to this little known though stupendously large gem. If you’re in Japan and haven’t seen it yet… what are you waiting for?!
(I hope any Buddhists reading aren’t upset with me celebrating their statues in this way- for the record, I love Daibutsu and the feeling of peace I get from them. I’m just kidding about biggest being the best, too.)
Of course, speaking as a keen macro photographer, the biggest is not neccessarily the best- yet you cannot help but be impressed by the size and presense of this Daibutsu. It literally towers over all nearby it, and was probably in the past visible from quite far away, a wonder of that ancient world.
Another great thing on the mountain are the various staues of the 1,500 Arhats (novices in the beginning stages of the path to enlightenment). There are far from 1,500 such statues around any more, and many seem to be be erroded, though there is a reconstruction effort ongoing at the moment. What is remarkable is their individual features, which makes you feel that they really do each have personalities of their own.
It was all a great day out with friends Asif and Glen (aka Tokyo-Fox!)- the weather perfect and the scenery inviting. The atmosphere around the statue itself was great, as everyone was so relaxed, under clear blue skies with the occassional eagle swooping around. It felt something like the atmosphere at a music festival, lying in the sun and waiting for the big band to start. Perhaps this is how it felt for the crowds as they waited for a sermon from the Buddha himself way back then, in India.