Usuki Stone Buddha entrance

The Usuki Stone Buddhas

Beppu is popular for its hot springs. 40 kilometers southeast of the city lies Usuki, located at the center of Oita Prefecture.

Otomo Sorin (1530-1587), a Christian feudal lord built a castle in Usuki and made it his home. He turned Usuki into a castle town which became the foundation of what the city is today. The city has a large port during the 16th century making trade with Europe and China possible. This led to Usuki being prosperous and known as the heart of six provinces during the time at Kyushu region.

Hoki Stone Buddhas

Hoki Stone Buddhas.

Today, Usuki is a quaint and quiet city that hold remnants of the past seemingly unchanged. Narrow streets line the city, several temples and samurai residences still stand. But one site remains the most popular among all of Usuki’s charms, that is the Usuki Stone Buddhas.

The stone Buddhas
The Usuki Stone Buddhas or Usuki Sekibutsu are statues of different Buddhas hat were sculpted onto a cliff sometime during the late Heian Period (794-1185). The statues are quite unique as Buddha figures are usually made of metal or wood. Stone statues are rare and the Usuki Stone Buddha’s are the only stone Buddha’s to be designated as national treasures in Japan.

The Stone Buddha statues are close to each other and are divided into clusters of four. It would take about a 30 minute walk on a paved trail to see all of the statues, 59 of which are selected as National Treasures of Japan.

Usuki Stone Buddhas

Usuki Stone Buddhas.

The Usiki Sekibutsu are carved on soft volcanic rock close to Mount Aso. Great efforts have been made to preserve the statues from erosion as the soft material along with the high moisture levels in the area make them susceptible. The 59 Buddha carvings are Bodhisattvas and the furious visage of Deva King.

The first cluster consist of 20 Hoki Stone Buddhas in various positions. The images are of 10 kings  dressed in ceremonial costumes and crowns surrounding a meditating figure. There are some remnants of orange and red paint on the robes. The second cluster is a carved Amitabha Trinity while the third is of the Sannousan Stone Buddhas also known as the ‘Hidden Jizo’s’.  The fourth and final cluster are of the Furuzono Stone Buddhas with their distinctive compassionate features. The statues are considered as masterpieces and truly make a remarkable sight to behold.