When it comes to buddha statues, the ones in Kamakura and Nara are the most likely to be at the forefront of most peoples minds (and rightly so!) but there is an impressive one tucked away far from a station in the northern suburbs of Tokyo.
Despite the accolade of being the third largest bronze buddha in Japan, the not-so-originally named Tokyo Daibutsu doesn’t seem to feature in any guide books and is very much off the beaten track. It can be found at Jorenji Temple (5-28-3 Akatsuka, Itabashi-ku) which is a 20 minute walk from Shimo Akatsuka station on the Tobu Toju line and a place I have visited a couple of times in the past albeit not for many years!
There’s a quite nice Japanese lake packed full of carp between the main temple hall and the buddha statue. The giant Buddha, which is about 12.5m tall, was erected in 1977 in the hope that it would protect the area from war and natural disasters like earthquakes. The temple itself has a much, much longer history dating back to around 1400 when it was located along what became known as the Nakasendo Highway which is an ancient road connecting Tokyo and Kyoto. When the road was further constructed, Jorenji was relocated to it’s present location.
Those Seven Lucky Gods (shichifukujin in Japanese), believed to grant good luck, keep following me around it seems. Only a few days after coming across them in Maebashi (Gunma prefecture), I saw them again at this temple at the bottom of the steps leading up to the buddha statue.
The place is littered with a few interesting-looking statues including some small onegai jizo (wish-granting statues) among others.
It is a fairly pleasant area and well away from the crowds and worth checking out if you’re in the vicinity but maybe not a place to go out of your way to get to. We didn’t go to them but Akatsuka Botanical Gardens and Akatsuka Joshi Park (which is home to two museums) are located right by the temple.
Before that we had visited Hikarigaoka Park (below) which is pretty much equidistant between Shimo Akatsuka and Narimasu stations on the Tobu Toju Line. This is vast park covering more than 600,000 m2 and contains a lawn square, bird sanctuary, gymnasium, library, baseball fields, tennis practice wall, track field and archery ground. Our recent visit happened to coincide with the start of the Autumn leave season which was nice.
Bonus: Think of Ueno Park and images of a panda, lotus pond, cherry blossom or various museums probably come to mind but there is a kind of Great Buddha Hill (below) too which is well worth a look. Sadly, the closed-eyes face is all that remains of a huge Buddha statue (akin to the Great Buddha in Kamakura) which was destroyed in WWII. A black and white photograph placed next to it shows what it looked like prior to being melted before the war. The pagoda which houses the head was built in 1972.
A ten minute walk from Goko Station (Shin-Keisei Line) in Matsudo (Chiba-ken) takes you to this huge buddha head (below) which I think is actually a factory that makes buddha statues not that most people driving past it probably realise! They probably just wonder why there’s a huge buddha head sitting by the roadside without any temple in sight!
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Ushiku Daibutsu (2004)’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Nokogiri-Yama Mountain In Chiba’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Ofunakannon-ji Temple’