Great Buddha Statue in Kyoto (京の大仏)

Great Buddha statue in Kyoto originally existed in Hoko-ji Temple (Higashiyama-ku Ward, Kyoto City). It was counted as one of the three great statues of Great Buddha in Japan.

The Great Buddha and Daibutsuden (the Great Buddha hall) will be described here.

Construction by Hideyoshi
Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI planned the construction of Daibutsuden and the Great Buddha following the example of Todai-ji Temple of Nara in 1586.

Daibutsuden was mostly completed and approximately 19 meters high wooden Great Buddha statue decorated with lacquer and gold was set up in 1595 but collapsed due to the great earthquake in 1596 before a ceremony to consecrate a newly made Buddhist statue was held.

Hideyoshi passed away in 1598 before a ceremony to consecrate a newly made Buddhist statue, and during the same year the service was held in Daibutsuden without Great Buddha.

The enormous Daibutsuden was approximately 49 meters tall, 88 meters wide south to north and 54 meters deep east to west, and the precincts of the temple included not only Hoko-ji Temple but also Toyokuni-jinja Shrine (Kyoto City) and the Kyoto National Museum.

Construction by Hideyori
Hideyori TOYOTOMI, who was the son of Hideyoshi, succeeded his father and attempted the reconstruction of Great Buddha in copper with Katsumoto KATAGIRI as the leader, but the Buddhist statue melt due to an error by the caster and Daibutsuden was caught in a blaze in December 1602.
(There has also been a theory that it burned down due to arson in 1604.)

There was a plan brought up again to reconstruct Daibutsu and Daibutsuden in November 1608. The construction of Daibutsuden was begun in 1610; Ieyasu TOKUGAWA ordered the various nearby Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) to support it and sent Masakiyo NAKAI, who was the carpenter, while he himself donated rice. Furthermore, the golden plate in which the Great Buddha was clad was cast in Edo ("Todaiki" (a famous chronicle describing the Early Modern age)). The ground-breaking ceremony was performed in July, and the Daibutsuden and the Great Buddha made from copper were completed in 1612.

The bosho (Buddhist temple bell) was completed in Daibutsuden in May 1614, and a rakkei hoyo (a memorial service to celebrate the construction of a temple) was held but was aborted due to an ill-omened word mentioned by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA in August concerning the inscription for a Buddhist temple bell drafted by the Zen monk Bunei Seikan of Nanzen-ji Temple. This was 'the Incident of the Hoko-ji Temple Bell in Osaka no Eki (The Siege of Osaka),' which developed into a conflict between the Toyotomi and the Tokugawa families.

Additionally, the Great Buddha was damaged in the earthquake of 1662 and was thus to be reconstructed with wood. The copper from the ruined Great Buddha is said to have been used in the casting of Kanei Tsuho (coins).

Lightening struck Daibutsuden in August, 1798. The main hall, Sanmon, burned down and the wooden Great Buddha was reduced to ashes.

A children's song of Kyoto sings of this fire, 'Great Buddha of Kyoto burned due to the tenka (fire from lightening) and Sanjusangendo Temple left, don-don-don (don-don-yake (a word commonly used by Kyoto citizens for the rapidly spreading fire that started from a fire at the time of the Kinmon Incident)), kora-don-don-don.'

After January 1831
Great Buddha and Daibutsuden of a similar scale haven't been constructed since then, but during 1830 and 1843 a supporter in what is now Aichi Prefecture donated a smaller, former wooden Great Buddha statue from the shoulder up as well as its temporary housing. However, even this burned down in a midnight fire on March 28, 1973. The blaze resulted from the left-over fire of a brazier used in the temple building. Before the fire, there was a year-round exhibition of some remains of Hoko-ji and the Great Buddha.

The Present
Remnants include a belfry where the temple bell that triggered the Shomei Incident, a stone mound and pagoda engraved with various lords, and many facilities with the name 'daibutsu' (Great Buddha) in surrounding areas, such as 'Daibutsumae Police Box' (the police station in front of Great Buddha) on Shichijo-dori and Yamatooji-dori Streets.

Furthermore, the name of Shomen-dori Street (front street), which runs east and west, originated from the street that connects to the 'front' of this Daibutsuden.

[Original Japanese]