This Buddhist Temple is Guarded by 1,200 Whimsical Statues
Tue, April 20, 2021

This Buddhist Temple is Guarded by 1,200 Whimsical Statues

 

Kyoto, Japan has over 1,600 temples that locals and tourists can visit every day. One of them is the Otaga Nenbutsu-ji temple. But, unlike other temples, the Otaga Nenbutsu-ji temple is inherently calm not only because it’s a Buddhist temple but because it lacks tourists. Still, the temple is a must-visit destination in Japan because of its over 1,200 laughing and smiling sculptures.

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

The Otaga Nenbutsu-ji temple was built back in the 8th century, between 766 and 770, by Empress Shōtoku, the 46th and 48th monarch of Japan. Its original location was not in Kyoto but in Higashiyama since the temple was washed away by the flooding of the nearby Kamo River. After Senkan Naigu, a Buddhist priest, re-established the temple in the 10th century, the temple was destroyed again in the 13th century as a result of a civil war. Workers tried to rebuild the hall in 1922 but it was decimated again by a typhoon in 1950.

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

The temple experienced a major change when Kocho Nishimura, a temple priest and sculptor, rebuilt it piece by piece. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, he turned it both an artistic and spiritual place. The sculptures that were built are not only symbolic of Buddha's disciples called Rakan but also memorials of people the artists have lost and representative of the artists themselves.

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

In 2003, Nishimura died, but the temple will still be remembered as the temple with a thousand Rakan. His son, Kouei, replaced him as a priest at the temple. As a musician, he blends new-age synth with classical harmonies to create vivid electronic, meditative soundscapes. “The music is a message. It's all around us, like the air that we don't notice until we realize that we are breathing it,” he explained. 
 

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