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The Giant Buddha of Kamakura – Amida Nyorai

This Buddha of Infinite Light is a Japanese version of the Indian Amitābha. Amida Nyorai is a celestial Buddha of Shin Buddhism, one of the most popular branches of Buddhism in Japan.


Amida Buddha sits or stands on a lotus with his hands in meditation or exposition mudra (symbolic finger gestures). The most famous statue of Amida can be found on the grounds of Kotoku-in monastery (Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture). The Japanese simply call him Daibutsu (大仏), which literally means «Big / Giant Buddha» and is rather confusing, because there are actually more than 10 large Buddha statues all over Japan. Other famous Amida Nyorai are in Ushiku (Ibaraki Prefecture) and Kyoto (Byodo-in Temple).


Kotoku-in belongs to the independent sect Jōdo-Shu (Pure Land School), or Jōdo Buddhism, founded by Hōnen, a devotee of Amida. Pure Land is described as Nirvana, Paradise (Jōdo) or the Land of Eternal Bliss, created by Amida.

Shin Buddhism (Jōdo Shinshū), also known as True Pure Land School, was founded by Hōnen’s disciple Shinran.


Many famous monks (Shinran, Hōnen, Dōgen, Nichiren) were trained at the Tendai School and later founded their own schools or independent branches of Buddhism.


By the way, the windows in Daibutsu’s back were used to remove the earth which filled the statue during the molding process.

The teachings about Nirvana were initially created in India and adopted by Shin Buddhism. Amida Buddha tries to enlighten all beings. Nembutsu means reciting the phrase «Namu Amida Butsu», which makes us mindful of Amida. Believers are supposed to chant different kinds of nembutsu daily, on pre-determined dates and on one’s deathbed. Thus the believer can come to the Pure Land in his afterlife.


No matter where you are in Kamakura, you will (almost) never lose sight of Big Buddha.



Kotokuin and Kamakura Daibutsu
Address: Kanagawa Prefecture, Kamakura, Hase 4-2-28
Access: Walk 5 minutes from Hase Station (Enoden railway line) or 15 minutes from Kamakura station ( Yokosuka line, Shonan-Shinjuku line)
Opening Hours: April – September 8 AM-5:30 PM, October – March 8 AM – 5 PM
Distance to airport: About 40 km from Haneda Airport
Entrance fee: 200 yen.

Article by Olga Kaneda

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