Updated: Nov 29, 2019
One of Japan’s most famous buddha statues and contender for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Kamakura’s Daibutsu (“Great Buddha”) dates to 1252. Iconic to Kamakura, images of the Daibutsu can be found on everything from candy wrappers to tourist brochures. Despite the commercialization, however, its calm and comforting presence has to be experienced in person. It is magnificent.
Cast in bronze, the Daibutsu was originally housed inside a wooden temple hall that was destroyed by storms and rebuilt several times. However, since the tsunami of 1498, this benevolent Amida buddha has remained unsheltered, quietly meditating beneath the sun and the moon. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 actually shifted the buddha several feet. Damage has since been repaired. The statue is approximately 13 meters (43 feet) tall and is completely hollow. This is a must-see while in Kamakura. The temple grounds entry fee is 200yen and then another 20yen fee to go inside the statue to see how it was constructed.
If the weather is nice and you feel like a hike through the woods, the most beautiful approach to Kotoku-in is from the Daibutsu Trail. You can access the trail from Genjiyama Park (behind Jufuku-ji) or from Kita-Kamakura (behind Jochi-ji).