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The Great Buddha of Todaiji

Are you soon planning a stay in the Kyoto, Nara, or Osaka region of Japan? Are you possibly studying about the region and its many traditional Japanese locations for a class in your school or maybe studying about Japanese history, culture, or Buddhism on your own? In any case, there is a very special Buddhist temple in the ancient capitol known as Nara that you really should visit if at all possible. It is spectacular beyond words and is often somehow missing from the top 10 places to visit in Japan in various guidebooks, yet it likely should be in the top 5 at least.

The temple of which we speak is the one and only massive masterpiece called Todaiji. Among many of its features is the world’s largest wooden building and Japan’s largest statue of Buddha. Let’s look at some of the aspects and history of this wonderful temple to get to know it a little better.

Todaiji was originally constructed around the year 752. It was supposedly commissioned by the Emperor of Japan as a tribute to a son that passed away within a year of his birth. The opening ceremonies when the main statue was presented in 752 were reportedly amazingly spectacular and included guests from China and India to properly open the temple and its beautiful Buddha to the world. Todaiji actually served as an administrative temple for all six of the provincial sects of Buddhism in Japan at the time when Nara was the capitol city. This is certainly rather special and truly a testament to its purity for one temple to have served so many different sects in such harmony. The temple is reported to have grown so powerful politically that the capitol of Japan was actually moved from Nara to prevent it from having too much sway over control of Japan. Regardless of the move, the temple continued to have political sway, although likely much less threatening to the imperial government of the era.

The main feature of the temple complex is a large and beautiful wooden building, known as the “Daibutsuden”, which is the largest wooden structure in the world. It is actually only around two thirds of the original size as it was rebuilt most recently in approximately 1709. The fact that it is still the largest wooden structure in the world is truly amazing given how much it was sized down for the reconstruction. The building is a gorgeous architectural masterpiece and any who visit for the first time are likely to be truly mystified by its beauty.

The main statue in the heart of the primary building is popularly known in Japan as the “Nara Daibutsu” (The Great Buddha of Nara). It is the largest statue of Buddha in Japan and supposedly was the singular aim of all bronze casting in the country for at least a couple of years. The statue has also been recast since that time due to various reasons such as earthquakes and the current casting dates from approximately 1692.

Todaiji is located in Nara park, which is an amazing place in and of itself. The park is known for its tame deer which roam freely around and mingle with the human visitors. In the Shinto tradition of Japan the deer are seen as divine messengers and their presence in the temple area is yet another testament to the magic of Todaiji.