Kotoku-in Temple

Kotoku-in Temple Kamakura 高徳院

Kotoku-in Temple (高徳院), in Kamakura, is the home of the "Daibutsu" or "Great Buddha", an 11.4 meter (37 ft), 121 ton copper statue of the Buddha, constructed in 1252 at the height of Hojo clan power. The Hojo were the ruling family and major power brokers during the Kamakura shogunate period of Japanese history.

While not as big as the Buddha in Todaiji TempleNara, that inspired it, the Kamakura Great Buddha is considered superior in terms of artistry.

Today, Kotoku-in belongs to the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism.

The Daibutsu Great Buddha, Kamakura, Japan.
The Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura
Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura.
Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura

Kotoku-in Temple History

The Great Buddha's origin lies in the rather unBuddhist quality of rivalry. The first Shogun Yoritomo Minamoto was present at the unveiling in 1195 of what is still Japan's biggest statue of the Buddha at Todaiji Temple in Nara.

His death four years later meant he was unable to realize his wish to erect a similar monument in his own town. However, his Court lady, Inada, took it upon herself to make his wish a reality and, with the cooperation of his wife, raised funds throughout the land for the purpose. (Power had passed to the Hojo clan by this stage who patronized the Zen sect and, Kotokuin Temple being a Jodo sect temple, the Hojos provided no financial assistance.)

The Buddha first built with the funds raised was actually a wooden one that was later destroyed in a storm. Its replacement, the present bronze one, was cast in 1252. It was originally housed in a large hall, but the hall was first damaged by a storm in 1369, then washed completely away by a tidal wave in 1495. It has been in its present exposed position since then. Some of the large foundation stones of the original wooden building covering the Buddha statue can still be seen.

The statue underwent some renovation in the early 18th century after falling into disrepair, then again in 1923 after the Great Kanto Earthquake that demolished Tokyo, and most recently in 1960 to reinforce it against another possible quake with the addition of shock absorbers in the base.

The proportions of the statue are purposefully distorted so that viewers in front of the image see the statue in perspective. This may reflect the influence of Greek statuary passed along the Silk Road through Gandhara in present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura.
Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura
Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura.
Daibutsu, Kotoku-in Temple, Kamakura

Kotoku-in Temple Layout & Buildings

The head of the Great Buddha is visible on entering Kotokuin Temple, which is located about 400 meters north of Hase Station on the Enoden Line.

While the Daibutsu is not as awe-inspiring in its size as you might expect. Its impact is as much in the atmosphere it exudes, hands resting, eyes half closed but seemingly intently attuned to everything around it. The Buddha's hands are laid on its lap with palms and thumbs touching, which represents the mudra of "perfect repose and passionless calm."

The Daibutsu's dimensions are 11.4m in height, 29.4m in circumference with the length of the face, 2.3m. The silver boss on the statue's forehead weighs 13.6kg and the image is around 121 tons in total. A staircase inside the statue takes visitors up to shoulder height.

The grounds of Kotoku-in have a number of stone monuments. One such is inscribed with the words of the wandering Jodo sect monk Yuten Shonin (1637-1718) and other standing stones engraved with poems by Kaneko Kunen (1876-1951) and Yosano Akiko (1878- 1942), a poet, feminist and reformer of the Taisho Period.

The temple grounds also include a tree planted by the Thai king Prajadhipok (1893-1941) to commemorate his visit to the temple and a monument to former Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene (1906-1996) with the words: "Hatred ceases not by hatred but by love." J.R. Jayewardene is highly thought of in Japan for his support for reconciliation with the defeated nation at the 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference.

Kotoku-in Temple Hours and Admission

Kotoku-in Temple is open from 8am to 5.30pm April to September; 8am to 5pm October to March.

Admission is 200 yen to the temple grounds and an additional 20 yen to enter the statue.

Hase-dera Temple is only five minutes' walk from Kotoku-in and Kosokuji Temple is also nearby.

Kotoku-in can be accessed from the Kuzuharagaoka-Daibutsu Hiking Trail.

Enoden Train, Kamakura.
Enoden Train, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

Access - how to get to Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura

Kotoku-in Temple is a short 400 meter walk from Hase Station on the Enoden Line to Enoshima.

Kamakura is located in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo and under an hour by a JR Yokosuka train from Tokyo Station.

Kotoku-in Temple (in Japanese & English)
4-2-28 Hase
Kanagawa Prefecture
Tel: 0467 22 5051

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