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A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures


Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
neverendingvoyage

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is a Buddhist temple in the Arashiyama neighborhood of Kyoto, Japan.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji was founded by Empress Shōtoku in the middle of the eighth century. Though was destroyed by the flooding of the Kamo River, it was rebuilt as an offshoot of Enryaku-ji, a nearby temple. In the 13th century, it was again destroyed during a civil war. The temple was moved to its current location in 1922, later suffering typhoon damage in 1950.

h/t: wikipedia, messynessychic, neverendingvoyage, insidekyoto

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

In 1955, the temple’s fortunes began to change when a new head priest was appointed. His name was Kocho Nishimura and he began the long process of renovating the temple. Kocho Nishimura was not only a priest but an accomplished sculptor of Buddhist statues. He hit on the idea of having visitors carve their own statues for the temple under his guidance. These “rakan” statues, which represent Buddha’s disciples, were all added to the temple between 1981 and 1991, but look much older as they are now fairly covered with moss. Because each statue was carved by a different person, each one is completely unique, and many have humorous expressions or whimsical poses.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

The gate of the temple contains two fierce-looking Nio statues. Inside the temple are more than 1200 rakan, stone statues representing the disciples of Buddha. These statues, in keeping with rakan traditions, are generally humorous. The sculptures were donated in 1981 in honor of the refurbishment of the temple. Most were carved by amateurs, taught by sculptor Kocho Nishimura.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

Explore the grounds and you will find a statue with a tennis racket, another with an old portable cassette player, one dandling a child on its knee and two more sharing a laugh and a cup of sake! if you are expecting Buddhist temples to be solemn and serious, then you may be surprised. What is really amazing though is that all of these statues were carved by amateurs. Kocho Nishimura must have been a good teacher!

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Michael Lambe

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Naoto Shibata

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Naoto Shibata

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Naoto Shibata

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
Naoto Shibata

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
neverendingvoyage

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
neverendingvoyage

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
neverendingvoyage

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple: A Secret Garden In Kyoto Features 1200 Stone Sculptures
neverendingvoyage

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