Culture Hokkaido Travel Guide

The Hill of the Buddha | Atama Daibutsu

In Sapporo city of Hokkaido, you can find a massive Buddha in Makomanai Takino Cemetery. There are many massive Buddha statues to be found throughout Japan, though this one is unique in many ways. It is unique and a true masterpiece of modern Buddhist art.

You’ll likely first spot this Buddha’s head peeking just over the hills of lavender fields. The monument was designed by Tadao Ando, an architect famous for many buildings and designs both inside and outside of Japan.

It was completed in 2016 to commemorate the cemetery’s 30th anniversary.

Atama Daibutsu in the summer. Photo Credit: 公益社団法人 ふる里公苑.

This statue, called the Atama Daibutsu, is one of many statues in the cemetery. These make the cemetery more welcoming than many others.

You’ll find Moai statues and even a replica of Stonehenge. While unusual for a Japanese cemetery, which usually consists of square stone headstones, it is a surprisingly quiet and spiritual place.

Atama Daibutsu in Autumn.

The Atama Daibutsu actually sits largely within a hollow dome with only the top of its head sticking out above ground. Beautiful lavender fields are found all around.

The path that leads you to the Hill of Buddha is mostly hidden, creating a sense of mystery and a solemn feeling. As you near the end of the path, you’ll find a garden on the water- a common feature of Tadao Ando’s designs.

Atama Daibutsu.

The tunnel leading up to the statue has a womb-like design. The statue is revealed little by little until you see it highlighted by sunbeams coming down from the sky.

The statue itself is 13.5 meters tall and weighs 1500 tons. You can write wishes on votive tablets with horse drawings, called ema, or draw paper fortunes for a small fee.

If you’re hungry, stop at Rotunda Café and Store is located inside the Hill of the Buddha. There you can find pasta, udon noodles, light meals, and coffee.

The ice cream shop Missu-house offers ice cream. You can also find a variety of themed souvenirs here, from t-shirts to photo books.

View of the Atama Daibutsu in winter.

While the Hill of the Buddha offers an incredible sight, the whole area is beautiful and offers many photo opportunities. The flower market found near the parking lot offers some great places to take pictures.

No matter the season, the views are amazing, whether the fields are blooming with lavender or covered in a white blanket of snow.

Access Info:

To get to Makomanai Takino Cemetery and the Hill of the Buddha, take the Nanboku Line from Sapporo Station and get off at Makomanai Station, the last stop. You can take the local 108 bus (Chuo Bus) to the cemetery, a ride of about 25 minutes.

Visiting hours: 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.(April – October) , 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.(November – March).
Address: Makomanai Takino Cemetery
Access: Chuo Bus 108 (380 yen) from Makomanai Station
Entrance fee: A 300-yen donation per person is requested. 
Official Website: www.takinoreien.com