Kōtoku-in is known for the “Great Buddha.” Kotoku-in is a temple of the Jōdo-shū sect, more known for the “Great Buddha.” It stands 11m tall (13m including the base mount) and weighing 120 tons.
In 1369, the Great Buddha once collapsed in a storm, and in 1495 the Daibutsu-den (building surrounding the daibutsu) was washed away due to a tsunami.
Beautiful camellia, cherry blossoms, and azalea can be seen.
[the Great Buddha of Kamakura]
The Daibutsu is an enormous statue of bronze cast in the year 1252. Its name means “Great Buddha” in Japanese.
The impetus for this great work dates back to the early years of the 13th century, when the court lady Inadano-Tsubone (an attendant of Shogun Yoritomo) desired to have a Buddha image created as an expression of her faith and piety.
When Yoritomo died, she spent her remaining years seeking funds for such a project.
Her quest earned the support of the great priest Joko, a native of Totomi province, who aided her by traveling throughout the country in pursuit of funds.
Enough funds were collected that by 1238 work was able to begin.
The first Buddha image, taking five years to complete, was a wooden one of unknown dimensions (though probably somewhat comparable to the present image).
An enormous wooden hall was constructed around it in 1243.
After a storm damaged the image in 1248, Idanono-Tsubone and Joko proposed to cast the image in bronze.
Although this was costlier by several orders of magnitude, Idanono-Tsubone and Joko managed to raise the required funds.
No doubt they were aided by their reputation for their prior success in constructing an enormous wooden image.
The Daibutsu of today was completed in 1252, with inauguration ceremonies held on August 17th.
At that time, the bronze image was sheltered within a wooden hall of immense dimensions, but the hall was subsequently destroyed in 1335 during a large storm.
The hall was again reconstructed, only to be blown down during a typhoon in 1368.
The fourth and final reconstruction of the hall remained standing until 1495, when an unprecedented tsunami washed away the structure but left the bronze image largely intact.
The 26th abbot of the Great Head Temple Zojoji tried to have the lost hall rebuilt during his tenure, but the project was abandoned after his death in 1718.
Since then, there have been no efforts at reconstruction of the lost hall.
An earthquake in Sept 1923 destroyed the base of the Buddha but did not damage the body.
The base was repaired in 1926, and subsequently in 1960-61, after which it was rebuilt to allow the body of the Buddha to move independently of the base in the event of a future earthquake.
An interesting record of the Buddha image is found in the journals of Captain John Saris (1580-1643), the English Captain who was the first to reach Japan in 1613 on board The Clove.
Note that Saris’ voyage was the first expedition sponsored by the English to reach the country, although the Englishman William Adams had previously visited Japan while in command of a Dutch ship.
“The Countrey betwixt Surnunga and Edoo is well inhabited.
We saw many Fotoquise or Temples as we passed, and amongst others an Image of especiall note, called Dabis [probably a mishearing of Daibutsu], made of Copper, being hollow within, but of a very substantiall thickness.
It was in height, as we ghessed, from the ground about one and twentie or two and twentie foot, in the likenesse of a man kneeling upon the ground, with his buttockes resting on his heeles, his arms of wondefull largenesse, and the whole body proportionable.
He is fashioned wearing of a Gowne.
This Image is much reverenced by Travellers as they passe there.
Some of our people went into the bodie of it, and hoope and hallowed, which made an exceeding great noyse.
We found many Characters and Markes made uon it by Passengers, whom some of my Followers imitated, and made theirs, in like manner.”
– from “Daibutsu, the Great Buddha of Kamakura, as quoted from The Voyage of Captain John Saris to Japan, 1613”.