Photo: SoraNews24

This little-known temple in rural Japan has a giant Buddha bigger than Kamakura’s or Nara’s

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The two most famous Buddha statues in Japan are the ones at Kamakura’s Kotokuin Temple and Nara’s Todaiji Temple. Respectively 13.35 and 15 meters tall, they’re both astounding artistic achievements, but there’s a little-known temple in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture where there’s a Buddha statue that towers over each of them.


The temple is called Seirinji, written with the kanji for “pure” (清) and “woods” (林). The name actually doesn’t come for a reverence towards the local forests, though, but as a show of respect to the Buddhist nun who founded the temple some 700 years ago.

Seirinji is about a 15-minute walk from Kanuma Station on the JR Nikko Line. After stopping by the main hall to offer a quick prayer, we turned our eyes towards the Buddha statue.


Well, to be more specific, we turned our eyes up to the statue, which stands 19 meters tall.

In contrast to its imposing height, though, Seirinji’s Buddha has a friendly, inviting countenance, and the way its right hand is raised in benediction almost looks like it’s waving and saying “Hi!” It’s easily one of the most approachable-looking giant Buddha statues we’ve ever encountered.

The statue is also surprisingly slim. There’s sometimes a tendency to assume Buddhist statuary is going to have a more rotund physique, but Seirinji’s Buddha has a flat stomach, accentuated by the fitted look of its stone clothing.

If you’ve done much traveling in Japan and are thinking the aesthetics look a little different from what you’ve seen at other temples in the country, your impression is right. Seirinji’s giant Buddha is actually a reproduction of the Avukana Buddha statue in Sri Lanka, which was carved out of granite in the 5th century. The project was undertaken with the support of the Sri Lankan government and completed in 1988, and Seirinji was also gifted with relics of Shakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, and his disciples Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, which are enshrined on the premises.

Somewhat like the “Sacred Forest” flower park near the Yomiuri Land amusement park, Seirinji is an understated, unassuming, and yet poignant reminder of Japan’s religious culture, and how it connects the country with other nations. It’s also just plain cool looking, and especially worth visiting in mid-spring when the temple’s peony bushes are in bloom.

Temple information

Seirinji / 清林寺

Address: Tochigi-ken, Kanuma-shi, Hirosuecho 1170


Photos © SoraNews24

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- How big (small?) is the smallest Great Buddha statue in Japan? Let’s visit and find out【Photos】

-- We visit the Giant Buddha statue that our reporter dubs “kawaii” and “like a mascot character”

-- Miss school field trips? Now adults can go on a “school trip” too with new plan at Nara hotel

© SoraNews24

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Well, to be more specific, we turned our eyes up to the statue, which stands 19 meters tall.

There's one in Ibaraki that's (ahem) 120m tall...

Mind your neck.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love traveling in Japan and suddenly finding a big statue of the Buddha or a kanon. There are a lot more than I ever expected.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's not the length, not the girth but the artistry. The Kamakura one is clearly the most impressive from this point of view.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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