The main reason for going to this southern Sapporo cemetery was to see the life-size Moai statues but on the 25 minute bus journey my research told me that there was a pretty impressive buddha statue on site too. Nice. Two for the price of one. Not quite actually as there was another pleasant surprise in store at this interesting place.
Makomanai Takino Cemetery is located about 2.5 kilometres from the centre of Sapporo and is accessed by taking the train to Makomanai Subway Station at the end of the Namboku Line. When we arrived at the station we walked around for a bit trying to find where the bus would be going from. What we found was a monument (below) dedicated to the Sapporo 1972 Winter Olympics.
Typically we found that the bus we needed was right outside the station. It went from stop #2 where there was an intriguing sign (below) about a bear being spotted in the nearby Suzuran Park. Whilst Hokkaido is famed for it’s bears you wouldn’t expect to see one anywhere too near to Sapporo!
The bus took about 25 minutes and dropped us off in the middle of the huge cemetery grounds. Hill of the Buddha was a sight I had no idea about until we were on the bus heading to see the Moai statues. I came across it as I was looking on my maps app and it felt like a big bonus as I am always keen to see giant buddha statues.
The approach to the buddha is pretty impressive in itself with purple lavenders (Summer) as part of the natural landscape surrounding the area. This changes from season to season so it is no doubt worth checking out more than just once. The 135 metre walkway eventually comes to a kind of water garden (below) which is supposed to be a sacred boundary preventing one from making a straight and direct approach to the buddha whilst switching the mind from ordinary to the extraordinary. Ok then!
Once upon a time it was just a field with a 13.5 metre stone buddha statue in it but world-renowned architect Tadao Ando changed all that with his idea to build a hill covered with lavender bushes around it. Only after passing through this tunnel (below) can you finally look up to see the buddha statue in its full glory.
This Buddha statue is actually the symbol of the cemetery, more so than the Moai statues. The sunlight from the sky and the natural scenery overhead creates an awesome visual moment with the statue a solemn, attractive figure. Atama Daibutsu (literally head buddha) weighs 1,500 tons and was was named for its novel, impressive appearance.
Some of the best views of the buddha are from over near the Moai statues where you can just see the buddha’s head poking out from the hill where the lavender bushes look like the buddha’s head.
Even though I’m British, I have never been to the world heritage Stonehenge site…and as a non-spiritual person I really am less inclined to ever go there now as I got to experience it at Makomanai Takino Cemetery. Even though my tongue is planted firmly within my cheek when I say that I can’t deny that there is (sadly) an element of truth in there!
It would have been nice to have had a bit longer to explore other parts of this unique cemetery but just under an hour was about enough time to look around before returning to the city to do a few more things.
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