The Tokyo district, known for its otaku culture, is home to a hidden gem that few people know about.
When you hear the word “Daibutsu” (“Big Buddha”) in Japan, the first thing that usually comes to mind is Daibutsu in Nara, or Daibutsu in Kamakura. However, did you know is there a Daibutsu in the heart of Tokyo? And this one, unlike the others, floats in the air?
It’s something that’s flown under the radar for us every time we’ve visited the otaku district of Ikebukuro, which is better known for its Sega arcade and cosplay events and than its Buddhist culture.
However, once you get off at the station here, you’re only a seven-minute walk from Sengyo-jia temple nestled under a “green building” designed to look like a mountain in the heart of the city.
The building could easily be mistaken for an ordinary shopping complex in Tokyo, but it is the home of Sengyo-jiwhich also houses…Ikebukuro Daibutsu.
It seems we are now in a time where stopping to visit a Big Buddha is as easy and relaxed as stopping at a cafe, as there is not long access to the temple here.
▼ Just step into the darkness and the Great Buddha will gradually reveal itself to you.
The sight of a Great Buddha floating in the air is truly a sight to behold, and it floats beautifully, at a height of approximately 5.5 meters (18 feet) off the ground. The Buddha itself is about 4.6 meters tall and, according to the temple, is designed to represent the seated figure of Gautama Buddha floating in empty space.
Entirely made of cypress, the body would contain 8,461 sutras copied by hand who were presented at the temple.
It’s a lot of weight to hang on the floor, but it’s a feat accomplished elegantly, with the help of two hidden protruding beams that hold it in place on the back wall.
When you stop to see the Ikebukuro Big Buddha, you can also visit this old-fashioned candy stand on site…
…and buy an unusual type of goshuin seal stamppriced at 3,000 yen (US24.41), which includes a wooden model of the Buddha surrounded by clouds to make it appear to be floating in the air.
Admission is free, so the next time you’re looking for a place to heal your heart among Ikebukuro’s boy-love cafes, you might want to stop and see the floating Buddha.
Then you can continue your journey to enlightenment by visiting Japan’s smallest Big Buddha, located in Tokyo’s neighboring Chiba prefecture.
Sengyoji / 仙行寺
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minamiikebukuro 2-20-4
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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[ Read in Japanese ]