The “Ohno-ji Temple Maitreya Cliff-Carved Buddha” a Buddhist Statue Carved into the Cliff Face, Standing Before the Water’s Edge
A massive stone Maitreya Buddha can be seen in the large cliff face on the opposite side of the Uda River flowing through Uda City, Nara Prefecture. At approximately 12 meters, it is the largest fully remaining cliff-carved Buddhist statue (an image carved directly into a cliff face) in Japan, and was designated as a national historic site in 1920 as an important cliff-face Buddhist statue.
The statue’s history is said to have begun at the start of the Kamakura period (1185AD – 1333AD), when stonemasons of the Song kingdom of ancient China carved the image upon the instruction of the retired emperor Go-Toba as an act of piety. The retired emperor is also said to have been present at the grand eye-opening ceremony held in 1209.
The Technical Prowess to Carve The Statue in Just 9 Days Over 800 Years Ago
The statue possesses a calm face looking slightly downwards benevolently, and its hands, feet and robes are made with beautifully flowing lines. After the passage of over 800 years, however, portions became overgrown in moss and sand, and the surface crumbled away causing the image to become blurred.
For that reason, a major national restoration project was started in 1993, and the cleaning took as long as 6 years! In modern times it was arduous to simply assemble the necessary scaffolding on the riverbank, and Akitomo Okada, the chief priest of Ohno-ji Temple on the opposite side of the cliff remembers the challenges stating, “it makes the technical prowess of the group of Buddhist sculptors, who carved the image in just 9 days in an age with limited tools, all the more amazing.
In addition to the sculptors carving into the cliff face, there must have been other artisans on the opposite bank watching the entire work and providing directions.” The riverbank looked upon by the magnificent and beautiful Maitreya Buddha has long been held as a holy place. Fishing was of course prohibited, and the passage of cattle and horses was even avoided on the opposite bank.
Ohno-ji Temple’s Masterpiece of the Taisho Period is also Recommended
One sight that should not be missed when visiting Ohno-ji Temple is the “Ohno-ji Temple Cliff-Carved Daikokuten.” The Daikoku-sama diagonally facing Ono-ji Temple was carved relatively recently in 1924 during the Taisho period and possesses a charming and winsome face.
It is said the priest Kancho Maruyama (1843-1927), who resided in Hase-dera Temple and was a companion of the Japanese modern art master Tenshin Okada, drew the outline and then a local stonemason carved the image.
A cliff-carved Maitreya Buddha with a gentle face benevolently looking down and a famous, winsome Daikoku-sama. Come pay a visit to the Uda region, rich in greenery, and meet these wondrous sights!