Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Kamakura, a small town just outside of Tokyo. The city is home to many beautiful Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines. For me, the highlight of the visit was the bronze statue of the Amida Buddha at Kōtoku-in Temple. Sculpted in approximately 1252 by One-Goroemon and Tanji-Hisatomo, the statue stands 13.35m tall and weighs about 93 tons. The Buddha, which now stands in open air, was housed in a temple until the structure was destroyed by a tsunami in 1498.
Art and religion have been bound together for thousands of years. Most religions use artwork to glorify, idealize, and tell stories of their beliefs. The Daibutsu (large Buddha) symbolizes peace and meditation in life. The original, statue would have looked quite different from what remains today. It was made using a guilt-bronze technique. Gilding is a method where objects made of bronze or copper are coated with a thin layer of gold or gold leaf. As time passed, the gilt on the Great Buddha wore off, and today only traces of the original coloring remains in its ears.
Visiting the Daibtsu was awe-inspiring. The statue is colossal and one experiences a feeling of smallness in its presence. Yet, at the same time, there is a sense of peace and intimacy. I witnessed many visitors walking around and around, attempting to take the perfect photo. But the perfect image was achieved for me when I sat down on a nearby stone and just hung with the Buddha for a while, carving into my memory the experience of that day.