Hiroshima Daibutsu Homecoming Project; Sustaining the People’s Hearts and Minds
Did you know the Hiroshima Daibutsu was enshrined a short distance from the Atomic Bomb Dome? This Daibutsu (large Buddha statue) became a symbol of the reconstruction of the burnt Hiroshima soon after the war. It attracted many visitors and became known affectionately as the Hiroshima Daibutsu. Sixty years later, the Hiroshima Homecoming Project was launched to make the Daibutsu’s figure visible again in the city of Hiroshima.
”It must have been a real source of comfort for the people of the immediate postwar period, a time when so much was lost,” said Maruoka Yuusuke (丸岡優介), one of the founders of the Hiroshima Daibutsu no Degaicho: Homecoming Project. Maruoka admitted that he himself had never heard of the existence of the Hiroshima Daibutsu until recently.
The Daibutsu was built in 1201 at Fushoji Temple in present-day Yamagata Prefecture by Kaikei, one of the most renowned Buddhist masters of the Nara period. Records describe a very splendid figure decorated with gold foil, having a height of 1.3 take (about 310 cm), length of 8 shaku (about 240 cm) between both knees, and face width of 4 shaku (about 120 cm). After twists and turns, it finally reached the city of Hiroshima, which was razed by the atomic bomb.
Footage of the Hondori Parade
The Daibutsu was enshrined in 1950 at Yushinji Temple in Funairi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima City. It then became known and loved as the Hiroshima Daibutsu by the locals from that time on. On August 4 of the following year, it was transferred to the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) at Seirenji Temple in Otemachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima City, not far from the Atomic Bomb Dome.
”At the time, a parade (Hondori Parade) would be held from Funairi through Tokaichi, Hatchobori, Kinzagai, and Hondori. It was led by a troupe with conch shell instruments, with the Daibutsu being pulled on a cart by oxen decorated with flowers and many beautifully dressed people in tow,” said Maruoka, looking at a picture of those times. “This led to a grand memorial service and summer festival held every year on August 6. There really was nothing left in the postwar period. Despite this, so many people gathered to pay respect to the Daibutsu. This shows that the Daibutsu must have been a source of comfort, enjoyment, and hope for the city’s reconstruction. The people of that time showed overwhelming energy.”
However, the beloved Hiroshima Daibutsu disappeared around 1960 and was gradually forgotten.
The Daibutsu enshrined at Gokurakuji Temple in Ando, Nara Prefecture
About half a century later, in 2011, the Hiroshima Daibutsu was discovered to be enshrined at Gokurakuji Temple in Ando, Nara Prefecture.
“The chief priest of Gokurakuji Temple, Tanaka Zenyoshi, only heard that the statue was related to the Hiroshima Daibutsu. With the cooperation of the chief priest and other experts, it was determined that it was the Hiroshima Daibutsu.” After the Hiroshima Daibutsu was found, Gokurakuji Temple started holding the Hiroshima Daibutsu Peace Memorial Ceremony every August 6. The temple is also used for peace studies by grade-schoolers of Ando.
The Peace Memorial Ceremony at Gokurakuji Temple
The Hiroshima Daibutsu has been loved and respected in both Hiroshima and Nara. Maruoka and his collaborators have been pouring their efforts into this project, reaching their goal of 12 million yen in funds through crowdfunding. On July 1, 2022, the Daibutsu will be received from Gokurakuji Temple and enshrined at the Orizuru Tower in Otemachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima City, until August 31, 2022. At the same time, the Hiroshima Daibutsu Homecoming Memorial Service (tentative) will be held on August 6, with a grand parade reminiscent of the parades of those days scheduled to be held around Hondori on September 10.
”I believe that the strong bonds between the people of Hiroshima let them overcome the difficult postwar period. Today, in this world where it is difficult for people to come into contact with one another, we hope to send a message from Hiroshima to everyone worldwide with our hearts connected.”
Tags associated with this article