Arts & Design Travel Guide

10 Famous Buddha Statues in Japan

Buddhism in Japan has a long and storied history. You can find some of the most spectacular and famous Buddha statues in Japan, often surrounded by incredible temples and breathtaking scenery. These Buddha statues are religious, cultural, and local touchstones.

If you are in an area with one of Japan’s famous Buddha statues, they are well worth a visit. These statues offer a great opportunity to learn more about Japanese religion, history, and art.

Here are the most famous Buddha Statues in Japan. They are found throughout the country, in famous temples and gardens that date back through Japanese history. Take a look!

1) Nara Daibutsu, Todaiji Temple

The famous Nara Daibutsu at Todaiji Temple. Photo Credit: Oren Rozen at Wikimedia Commons.

This massive Buddha statue sits in the main hall of Todaiji Temple. This hall was originally built in the Nara period, but it was destroyed by fire twice, once in 1180 and then again in 1567.

The current building was built during the Edo period. This hall is the largest wooden structure in the world.

The Buddha statue was first presented in 752. It was commissioned by Emperor Shomu as a part of his ongoing efforts to quell unrest throughout the country. It is the focus and purpose of the massive hall and is one of the surviving treasures of the Nara period.

2) Ushiku Daibutsu, Ibaraki Prefecture

Ushiku Daibutsu. Photo Credit: Ibaraki Prefectural Tourism & Local Products Association.

Ushiku Daibutsu is the world’s largest standing statue of Buddha. It is around 120 meters tall and can be seen from many kilometers away.

The statue sits in the middle of a large garden full of seasonal flowers, including cherry blossoms and poppies. The inside of the statue is a temple and there are many ceremonies held within every year.

In August, the Ten Thousand Lantern Festival is held on the grounds and is an incredible event. You must purchase a ticket at the entrance to visit the Buddha and the temple.

Be sure to ring the gate bell and think about buying some fish food to feed the carp at a pond in the garden. Inside, take an elevator to the temple and you’re in for a profound experience.

3) Kamakura Daibutsu, Koutokuin Temple

Kamakura Daibutsu and Cherry Blossoms. Photo Credit: Ogiyoshisan at Wikimedia Commons.

This statue is known as the Great Buddha of Kamakura. It is a massive copper statue and sits out in the open air, which is quite usual for large Buddha statues in Japan.

It stands 11.3 meters tall and weighs in at close to 121 tons. Construction on this statue was stayed in 1252, though many of the specifics are lost to history.

A massive hall originally housed the statue, but it was destroyed by typhoons in the 1300s. It was ravaged by the elements, but in the Edo period, local priests worked to repair it. Today, it is a common pilgrimage spot for Buddhist practitioners of all sects.

4) Takaoka Daibutsu, Toyama prefecture

Takaoka Daibutsu in Takaoka city, Toyama Prefecture. Photo Credit: Carlj7 at Wikimedia Commons.

One of the three great Buddhas of Japan, construction of this statue was begun was begun in 1906 and completed in 1933.

It stands more than 15 meters tall and is made of 65 tons of bronze.

It is a unique work, highlighting the bronze casting methods used in Takaoka famous for its metalworking techniques, especially its bronze ware), and has become a symbol of the city.

5) Fukuoka Buddha, Nanzoin temple

The Reclining Buddha of Nanzo-in Temple. Photo Credit: Chris Harber at Flickr.

This reclining Buddha statue is 11 meters tall and 41 meters long. It is the same size (stretched out) as the American Statue of Liberty in New York City. It is considered to be the longest statue of Buddha in the world.

It depicts the Death of Buddha as he reclines and passes into Nirvana.

Cords tied to the hand of Buddha allow visitors to “Shake hands” with Buddha. Many pray while holding these cords, hoping to receive the power of Buddha.

6) Nihonji Daibutsu, Nihonji Temple, Chiba Prefecture

Nihonji daibutsu of Nihonji temple, Chiba Prefecture. Photo Credit: Emily Zarndt at Wikimedia Commons.

This great Buddha statue is carved into a high cliff. It is the largest pre-modern stone-carved Buddha statue in Japan.

It is more than 31 meters tall and dates back to the 1700s. Earthquakes did some damage to the statue, but it was restored in 1966.

The hike alone is incredible, offering stunning views and making for a worthwhile workout. There are many other statues on the mountainside and the Nihonji Temple that houses the large statue, so keep an eye out as you climb.

7) Showa Daibutsu, Seiryu-ji Temple, Aomori Prefecture

Showa Daibutsu. Photo Credit: AOMORI Prefectural Government.

This huge statue of Buddha was built quite recently, in 1984. It is more than 21 meters tall. You can even go inside the statue.

The first floor and outer corridor contain a depiction of the Buddhist afterlife, including images of paradise and hell.

On the second floor, there is a memorial for those who have died in war. Except the giant Buddha statue, the main hall (Kondo) and the Kaizan-do are also wroth exploring!

If you plan on visiting Aomori city, make sure you don’t skip this interesting landmark from your itinerary. It’s a tranquil and perfect place to find some peace.

8) Gifu Daibutsu, Shoho-ji

Gifu Great Buddha, Shohoji temple. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This is one of the three great Buddhas of Japan. It is the largest one in Japan to be made of lacquer.

It was built using a technique that used gingko tree wood as a base, then the structure around it was made from bamboo and clay. For this image, Buddhist scriptures were added to the clay to create something like paper mache.

These scriptures were then covered in gold leaf and lacquer. It was started in 790 and finished in 1832. This statue’s expression is incredibly calming and soothing.

The vast hall that house the statue is a unique blend of Japanese and Chinese architecture styles. The north and south walls are lined with 500 statues of Buddha’s disciples, making this a unique and incredible visit.

9) Shurakuen Buddha (Shurakuen Park)

Shuraku-en Great Buddha! Photo Credit: ccfarmer at Wikimedia Commons.

The Shurakuen Buddha, located in Tokai City, is one of the largest Buddha statues in Japan. It was built to commemorate the marriage of Emperor Showa and it was consecrated in 1927.

It sits in Shurakuen Park, where you can find a number of things to do, from taking a pleasant stroll through the lawns to playing with your kids on the playground.

There are also facilities in the area that include indoor pools and baths as well as training rooms. If you visit the Shurakuen Buddha, also be sure to take the time to enjoy some mactha tea at Shurakuen Park’s traditional gardens.

10) Tokyo Daibutsu, Jorenji Temple, Tokyo

Tokyo Daibutsu. Photo Credit: Jmho at Wikimedia Commons.

This Buddha statue is the third largest one in Japan. It is 13 meters high and sits in a normal Japanese suburb, far from the busy highways and tall skylines of the city.

This Buddha was enshrined at the temple in 1977 to memorialize the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 as well as those of World War Two.

The trees surrounding the statue help make your visit serene and picturesque. The temple itself is simple and lovely, a great escape from the modern business of Tokyo.