The Great Buddhas of Japan

Religion is an important cultural aspect and way of life for many Japanese. Numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are scattered all around, as well as several “giant Buddhas” (Daibutsu). Thousands of visitors flock to pay homage to these historical monuments. Here are just a few of the most popular great buddhas of Japan.

Great Buddha of Gifu – located in Shōhō-ji (a Buddhist temple of the Ōbaku school of Buddhism) in Gifu City, the statue was envisioned by Ichyuu, the 11th head priest of Kinpouzan Shōhō temple in 1790. The 45-ft. statue took 38 years to build and was meant to avert large earthquakes and famines. The Great Buddha of Gifu is uniquely constructed with a central pillar measuring 1.8 meters in circumference formed from gingko tree wood.

Great Buddha of Gifu. | Douggers

The Buddha’s shape was then formed using bamboo lattices covered in clay to add shape with many of the Buddhist scriptures inlaid on the clay. The scriptures were then covered in lacquer and gold leaf that still appear today.

Great Buddha of Nara – located at Tōdai-ji (Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism) is the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha. The Great Buddha of Nara measures 52 ft. in height. Construction began in Shigaraki but after several fires and earthquakes was resumed and completed in Nara in 751. The building of the Nara Daibutsu nearly bankrupted Japan’s economy using up most of Japan’s available bronze at the time.

Great Buddha of Nara.


Great Buddha of Kamakura – located in Kōtoku-in (a Buddhist temple of the Jōdo-shū sect), Kamakura City, the great Buddha of Kamakura is made from bronze and said to date back to 1252. It measures a hefty 121 tonnes (267,000 pounds) with a height of 43.8 ft.

Great Buddha of Kamakura. | KCP Flickr

Great Buddha of Takaoka – located in Toyama Prefecture, it measures 52 ft. tall and is made from locally-mined copper. Completed in 1933, it was moved to its present site in 1980 after the ground beneath it sank about 11 meters.

Great Buddha of Takaoka. | Izu navi