Hidden Treasures of Buddhist Sculptures and Sacred Murals

Buddhist temples in Japan, including many popular ones in Kamakura or Kyoto, do not always display their treasured Buddhist sculptures or sacred murals to the public. However, temples in rural area are often visitor friendly, ready to display their source of pride to the visitors.

Takisanji, in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is one of such temples with an excellent collection of Buddhist statues. The centrepiece is the masterworks by the great sculptor Unkei, active from the late 12th to early 13th century and best known for a pair of masculine Kongo-rikishi statues placed to guard the Great South Gate of Todaiji temple in Nara. Among the twenty-something ancient statues housed in a small annex of Takisanji, three statues, the Kannon, Taishakuten and Bonten are attributed to this great master.

The three statures – Kannon, Taishakuten and Bonten by Unkei at Takisanji

As with Kokeizan Eihoji, Saimyoji in Kora Town, Shiga Prefecture, may look small but it has a graceful main hall and a three-storied pagoda, which are both from Kamakura Era and designated as national treasure. Both buildings are constructed without using a single nail, bearing testimony to the craftsmanship of the carpenters. The main hall is open to the public and they generously offer visitors a chance to see the interior of their pagoda, twice yearly from early April to early May and also in November. The vivid colors of the murals inside is sure to awe an unsuspecting visitor. The temple, which is one of the three great temples of Lake Biwa eastern shore, also owns exquisite sculptures from as early as the 12th century.

The three-storied pagoda in Saimyoji


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