Public Art Around The World

More Than Just The Plaque

Daibutsu in Kamakura


Public Art : Daibutsu (Great Buddha). Also known as Amida Buddha

Sculptors : © Ono Goroemaon and Tanji Hisatomo

Description : The Kamakura Diabutsu is an enormous bronze Amida Buddha statue.  Originally the 13.35m high statue was gilded and if you look very closely you can still see evidence of it, especially around the Buddha’s ears. The statue once had thirty-two bronze lotus petals at its base but only four remain, and they are no longer in their original position. The 93 ton statue is hollow so you can actually view the Buddha from inside.

Date Unveiled : c.1252

Location : The Daibutsu is located in the Kōtoku-in temple in Kamakura, Japan. It won’t be hard to miss and the locals will be quite happy to give you directions.

History of the Daibutsu : 

Originally a giant wooden Buddha stood at the Temple. Work on this started in 1233 but it would take 10 years for it to be completed. The funds for this wooden Buddha were raised by Lady Inada and the Buddhist priest Jōkō of Tōtōmi. The wooden Buddha sadly was destroyed by a powerful storm in 1248.

Undeterred, Jōkō requested a bronze statue be built as a replacement. He believed this would withstand the powers of nature. 

The Diabutsu was cast in 1252 and covered in guild. A new hall was built to house the enormous statue. Unfortunately for the hall it wouldn’t stand the test of time.. The original was destroyed by a huge storm in 1334 and then rebuilt and damged once again in 1369. Another was built and it too couldn’t survive the brunt of a storm front. In 1498 a massive tsunami pounded the temple, sweeping away all the structures except for the Great bronze Diabutsu. Ever since the tsunami the Buddha has stood outdoors without any protection from the elements.

On the 1st of September, 1923 a rumble began deep in Sagami Bay. This rumble would turn into a 7.9  earthquake. Kamakura was 60km (37mi) from the epicentre. The force of the quake shifted the 93 ton Diabutsu about 2ft and badly damaged the base. The 10m (33ft) tsunami that followed killed over 100 people along the Yui-ga-hama beach in Kamakura. An estimated 142,800 souls were lost in the Kanto region following the earthquake.

There is still some debate as to whether this is really the original statue constructed in 1252.

The Daibutsu is now earthquake proof. During restoration in the 1960’s work was done to protect it from earthquakes.

It is one of Japan’s National Treasures and is currently on the list to be included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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