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Saturday, June 03, 2017

Unique Buddhist Sculpture Masterworks in Kameoka & Kyoto

Kyoto has more Buddhist statues than any other place in Japan. Some of them are National Treasures and a few are rarely open to public viewing.

Unique Buddhist Sculpture Masterworks in Kameoka & Kyoto。

However, all of them possess a mysterious power that is undeniable. The master sculptors that created them were so skilled that they were able to give each statue a unique spiritual energy. Below are three temples where Buddhist statues are particularly powerful and easy to see. Each of them has a fascinating background and each of them has the power to calm the heart of the viewer.

Anao-ji 穴太寺

Anao-ji Temple's "Reclining Buddha": This temple is the 21st station on the well-known 33-temple Western Japan pilgrimage route. Anao-ji's 85-year-old Buddha, as its name suggests, is reclined under a blanket.

Under the head is a lotus-flower-shaped pillow. The figure is a beautiful shiny black. When you gaze at it you can almost hear the Buddha's breathing.

There is a story about this Buddha that concerns a monk whose beautiful granddaughter was very sick. He searched for a Buddha to cure her and this was the one. Today, many people come here and rub the part of the Buddha where they are sick. Touching the Buddha at this location is completely OK.

Open: 9am-4pm. Entry: 300 yen. Access: Take the JR Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to Kameoka Station in Kameoka to the west of Kyoto; then take a 15-minute bus ride to Anaoguchi bus stop. Tel: 0771 24 0809.

Seigen-ji 清源寺

Seigen-ji Temple's "Juroku Rakan": This quiet temple in Yagi-cho, a little west of Kameoka City, is home to 16 precious wooden figures of Rakan. All of the figures were carved by the monk Myoman in 1806.

Also known as Mokujiki, Myoman ate only nuts, berries, and a kind of buckwheat known as mokujiki. All the figures have round, gently smiling faces, each with a slightly different expression. On the back of 15 of the figures is written Rakan, the date of completion and Myoman's signature.

Only the last one has a different signature because Myoman was told to change his name in a dream. Seeing these figures will surely make you smile too. Note: to visit this temple you must make a reservation in advance.

Open: 9am-4.30pm. Entry: donation. Access: Take the JR Sagano line from Kyoto Station to Yagi Station; from there take a 10-minute taxi ride. Tel: 0771 42 3743.

Zenrin-ji Eikando 永観堂

Zenrin-ji Eikando Temple's "Mikaeri Amida": This 77-cm high wooden Amitabha Buddha figures is believed to have been carved in the early Kamakura Period (1185-1333). There is a famous legend connected with the figure.

A long time ago, the monk Eikan, the founder of this Jodoshu sect temple, was doing walking meditation around the statue. To his great surprise, the Buddha got off his altar and began walking in circles too. Eikan was so amazed that he stopped walking and froze. Then the Buddha turned his face back to Eikan and said: "Eikan Ososhi" (Eikan, you are slow).

Since that time, the figure has always had its head turned over his shoulder. The strong smile on the figure's face is said to lead people to enlightenment.

Open: 9am-4pm. Entry: 500 yen. Access: Take city bus #5 from Kyoto Station to Nanzen-ji Eikando-mae; then walk 15 min. to the east. Tel: 075 761 0007.
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