The Great Buddha is surprisingly big! The beautiful statues at Nara Todai-ji temple.

Nara’s famous Buddha statue is a colossal piece of artwork by 8th century craftsmen. How large is it? Its palm is 2.56 meters and its total height is 18 meters!

2018-09-10 Kumo   Visit: Temples & Shrines, Nara,


The Great Buddha statue at the Todai-ji temple

The Great Buddha statue at the Todai-ji temple

Nara’s famous Buddha statue is a colossal piece of artwork by 8th century craftsmen. How large is it? Its palm is 2.56 meters and its total height is 18 meters! Many visitors are very moved by this amazing statue, built 1200 years ago. (It has been damaged and restored several times throughout history.)

Why the Buddha statue is so big.

The Great Buddha statue (the Vairocana Buddha)

Building such a large object in ancient times might have been very difficult. However, the emperor of the time ordered its construction, because there were many problems during his reign. For example, conflicts between aristocrats, epidemic diseases, and droughts.
The emperor thought the problems were due to his poor political control. He believed the construction of a colossal statue showed his sincere worship to the religion and as a result, Buddha saved the country.

Buddha demonstrates the wisdom of the universe with his left hand, and his warmhearted mind with his right hand. The emperor requested that people who worship it should have good relationships forever.

Go through its nostril!

The Great Buddha hall has a pillar with a hole as big as the statue’s nostril. Visitors are allowed go through this hole, however it is quite small, just 30×37 centimeters square. It is said that getting through it successfully will give you good health.
(The temple originally constructed the hole to rid the building negativity.)

The hole is the same size as the Buddha statue’s nostril.

There are 4 other beautiful statues at the Great Buddha hall, and are another highlight of the temple.


The Todaiji-temple gate house, Nio guardians of Todaiji (a pair of Kongō Rikishi sculptures) was made by a group of craftsman during the Kamakura period

The Great South Gate, the largest temple gate in Japan

The Great South gate (Nandai-mon) is also very large, in order to complement the size of the main hall. Look up as you walk through, and you will see the attic. The gate has no ceiling, providing more room. This is called the Daibutsu architectural style, and was influenced by ancient China.


The famous pair of sculptures Kongō Rikishi, were sculpted by the famous craftsmen Unkei and Kaikei during the Kamakura period (the 12th to 13th century). The 8.4-meter-tall statues were built using approximately 3,000 pieces of wood. The sculptures have a strong and powerful appearance that are well associated with the Kamakura period, the first Samurai society.

The pair of Kongō Rikishi sculptures (A National treasure)
The pair of Kongō Rikishi sculptures (A National treasure)

Do not miss the small stone lions behind the Kongō Rikishi sculptures.

Stone lions are placed behind the Kongō Rikishi sculptures. They are small, but important to Japanese stone carving history. A stone carving craftsman who came from the Song dynasty of China brought the technique and made the statues. Thanks to him, hard granitic rock was able to be shaped, and stone carving became popular in Japan.

The stone lion

You can see global collaboration of craftsmen here!

The Todaiji-temple has been built and reconstructed by people with different national backgrounds throughout time. The specialists are from Korea and China. They had great influence on Japanese craftsmen, who developed their own original style. Todai-ji temple architecture and artwork have a unique style due to this. Please visit Nara and try to find the differences from other temples in Japan!


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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.


Address 406-1 Zoushi-cho Nara-shi Nara-ken 630-8587,Japan
Hours Nov-Feb/ 8:30-16:30
Mar/ 8:30-17:00
Apr-Sept/ 7:30-17:30
Oct/ 7:30-17:00
Price Adult and student above junior high student: 500 yen
Elementary school student: 300 yen
*Group of more than 30 discount fee is available
Close Open everyday
Access A 20 min. walk from the Kintetsu Nara station/ From the JR or Kintetsu Nara station, take a city route bus and get off at Daibutsuden Kasugataisha-mae, and it’s a five min. walk
Phone 0742-22-5511