We’re not quite sure what to expect when we head out on a day trip from Tokyo to see the Great Buddha of Kamagaya.

Even if you don’t have a background in classical Japanese art, just about everyone can recognize the Great Buddha of Kamakura. Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the south, the Great Buddha of Kamakura is 13.35 meters (43.8 feet) tall and one of the most famous symbols of Japan.

▼ Great Buddha of Kamakura

However, it’s not the only Great Buddha statue, or Daibutsu, to use the Japanese term, in Japan. For example, there’s a Great Buddha of Nara which attracts visitors to Todaiji Temple in Nara City. What a lot of people aren’t aware of, though, is that there’s also a Great Buddha in the town of Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, about an hour east of Tokyo.

But if it’s so close to the most populous city in Japan, why don’t more people know about the Great Buddha of Kamagaya? Probably because its claim to fame is a modest-sized one: the Kamagaya Daibutsu is the smallest Great Buddha in Japan.

Curious as to what this major/minor work of art looks like, we hopped on the train and took the Shin Keisei Line out to Kamagaya. The closest station to the statue is even called Kamagaya Daibutsu Station, and since the Great Buddha is said to be just a 30-second walk away, we figured we’d have no problem spotting it as soon as we stepped out of the ticket gate.

▼ Kamagaya-Daibutsu Station

Okay, Kamagaya Daibutsu, let’s take a look at you!



Looking around, we spotted a lot of the elements of a typical Japanese suburban cityscape, but no Great Buddha. We did at least see a sign designating this stretch of the road as the Kamagaya Daibutsu Bus Stop, though, and combined with the Kamagaya Daibutsu Station, there was no question that the statue should be nearby.

We looked around once more in confusion, and this time we noticed a cemetery across the street…and just barely peeking out from a sign, we say a shape that looked like the curly hair Buddha often has in statues.

…and it turned out this is where the Great Buddha of Kamagaya had been hiding!

OK, maybe “hiding” isn’t the right word. After all, the Kamagaya Daibutsu is sitting as out in the open as it can.

It’s just that even with the town’s modest level of development, the Great Buddha of Kamagaya is still dwarfed and concealed by the buildings and infrastructure around it. Granted, if you simply think of it as a statue, it’s not a tiny one. Including the pedestal, the Kamagaya Daibutsu is 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) tall. However, the Great Buddha itself is just 180 centimeters (70.9 inches) tall, only slightly more than average male height in Japan.

That’s not to say the statue is without its own special beauty, and having been commissioned by a local merchant in 1776, it’s got historical significance too. While it can’t match the awe-inspiring grandeur of its more famous Daibutsu brethren in Kamakura, Nara, and temples elsewhere in Japan, the statue has a kind, calm expression and a reassuring presence, in part because it’s simply not big enough to feel intimidating.

And undersized or not, the people of Kamagaya show big love for their Daibutsu, so we decided to get in the spirit and pick up a Daibutsu Croquette from a local vendor.

▼ The croquette, unsurprisingly, isn’t especially big.

The irony here is that there are plenty of Buddhist statues in Japan that are significantly larger than the Great Buddha of Kamagaya that don’t call themselves a Daibutsu. For that matter, there’s no official criteria on what does or doesn’t qualify a statue of Buddha for “Great” status. But maybe the lesson here is that any of us can be great in our own way as long as we choose to be.

Kamakura Daibutsu photo: Wikipedia/MGA73bot2
All other photos ©SoraNews24
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