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Japanese sculpture

About Japanese sculpture

In recent time, many Japanese artist has created various sculptures.
But the previous sculptures were not artistic productions but objects of religious belief.
So we can see such works at not only museums but also Buddhist temples.

Buddha statue

Buddha statue is the figure of Buddha who was the founder of Buddhism.
So one or some Buddha statues are laid out at the center of main building of a Buddhist temple.
Most statues are carved in wood, and gold leaves are put on them.

Kinds of Buddha statues

  • Nyorai : It's an honorific of Buddha. It means "the enlightened man". The hair is like kinky perm, and both hands make any sign.
    There are some kinds of Nyorai.
    • Shaka-nyorai : The figure of Bhudda.
    • Dainichi-nyorai : The Buddha of Tantric Buddhism.
    • Amida-nyorai : The Buddha living western paradise of heaven.
    • Yakushi-nyorai : The Buddha living eastern paradise of heaven.
  • Bosatsu : It means "the training man to achieve enlightenment". It puts on a crown, wears some accessories and holds something on hand.
    There are some kinds of Bosatsu.
    • Miroku-bosatsu : The training Buddha. He will appear in this world after 5.67 billion years.
    • Monju-bosatsu : A supporter of Buddha. He gives us intelligence and wisdom.
    • Fugen-bosatsu : A supporter of Buddha. He gives us sense of charity, and helps ladies.
    • Seishi-bosatsu : A supporter of Buddha. He gives us religious mind, and keeps us from going to hell.
    • Kan'non-bosatsu : A bosatsu helping all people. So it is very familiar to people.
      Generally, it is said that this bosatsu is female.
    • Jizou-bosatsu : A bosatsu helping this world until Miroku-bosatsu will appear. The figure is a monk.
  • Myouou : It's a strong man who drives the Buddha's teaching by force, and is a incarnation of Buddha. So it has a fierce look.
    And he lives in the world of fire, so most statues of Myouou has flame at the back.
  • Tenbu : It is a generic name of Gods of Heaven. We can find the Gods of "Taishaku-ten", "Benzai-ten" or "Kongo-rikishi" at any temple.
Shaka-nyorai in Horyuji Dainichi-nyorai in Koyasan
©Wakayama Prefecture / ©JNTO
Many Kan'non-bosatsu in Sanjusangendo (Kyoto)
Koumokuten in Tadaji (Obama city)


Nio is a pair of big statues of muscular giants, and is one of the Tenbu of Buddha statue.
It is also called "Kongo-rikishi, and it means "Wrestler with weapon which beats enemies against Buddha".

They mostly stand at both sides of the temple gate.
One has an angry look, and opens his mouth.
He is speaks "A". "A" is the first sound of Sanskrit, so it means the beginning of space.
The other contains his anger, and closes his mouth.
He says "Hmm...". That's the last sound of Sanskrit, so it means the end of space.

They prevents a invation of enemies against Buddha.

Nio Nio


Daibutsu is a huge Buddha statue.
Many daibutsu are in Japan, but most ones are made since the 19th century.
It is too big to make, so there are few old daibutsu.

The historic daibutsu are the following.

  • Daibutsu in Nara : It is in Todai-ji temple in Nara city, and was completed in 752.
    This is similar to Nyorai statue, but is a statue of Buddha called Rushana-butsu which is written in Buddhist scriptures from central Asia.
    It is made of bronze, and is about 15 meters high.
  • Daibutsu in Kamakura : It is in Kotoku-in temple in Kamakura city, and was completed in 1252.
    This is an Amida-nyorai statue.
    It is made of copper, and is about 11 meters high.
Daibutsu in Todaiji (Nara) Daibutsu in Kamakura


Jizou-bosatsu was a training bosatsu to achieve enlightenment.
But he gave up his post, and went on a walking tour to help the world as a monk. So he mostly holds a walking stick.
He is traveling during 5.67 billion years until the Miroku-bosatsu will appear in this world.

So he is close to people's heart.
The statues are put not only in the temples but also at the side of the road.
Most outside Jizou statues are made of stone.

Japanese people get their various hopes on each Jizou statue.
So most Jizou statues have a paticular purpose individually.
These are a scapegoat of sickness, accomplishment of birth, helping kids grow up in good health, protecting against evils and so on.

Jizou Jizou

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