Nestled in the lush green hills of Sasaguri, just a short train ride from bustling Fukuoka city, lies the serene grounds of Nanzoin Temple. This temple is home to an astonishing sight – a 41-meter long, 300-ton bronze statue of the Reclining Buddha, claimed to be the largest in the world.
As you follow the wooded path up to the temple, the first glimpse of the mammoth figure stretching out on the hillside is truly breathtaking. The Buddha lies in the ‘nehan’ pose, depicting the moment of his death and entry into nirvana. Unlike most Buddha statues in Japan which show him sitting upright in meditation, this reclining pose is more commonly found in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Myanmar.
In fact, the statue was gifted to Nanzoin Temple by the Myanmar Buddhist Council, in gratitude for the temple’s years of providing aid to Myanmar and Nepal. The statue was built to house some of the Buddha’s ashes bestowed by Myanmar, giving the figure an even deeper spiritual meaning.
A stroll around the statue lets you fully appreciate its epic size and serene expression. As the Buddha enters parinirvana, his followers are said to have grasped at his hands in grief. Visitors can symbolically join hands with the Buddha by holding one of the five colored strings dangling from the statue’s hand.
The statue lies on a bed of 365 stone jars, representing each day of the year. During Obon festival each summer, relatives come to place written prayers inside the jars that correspond to the death day of their loved ones, a moving tribute.
But Nanzoin has more to offer than just its main attraction. The temple grounds hold over 500 statues of the Buddha’s disciples, as well as towering figures of protective deities like Fudo Myoo. Nanzoin is also the first stop on the Sasaguri 88 Temple Pilgrimage circuit, a smaller version of the famous Shikoku pilgrimage route.
Whether you’re a pilgrim, art lover or just looking to escape the city, Nanzoin Temple’s historic halls, mossy gardens and spectacular centerpiece create an oasis of spiritual calm. As you sit gazing up at the Reclining Buddha’s peaceful smile, you may feel the stresses of everyday life gently fading away.