The Great Buddha of Kamakura is the second tallest bronze Buddha in Japan and the largest outdoor Buddha.
From JR Kamakura Station take the Enoshima Electric Railway towards Fujisawa and get off at Hase Station.
The Great Buddha is a 7 minute walk from there. It is well signposted.
At 11.3 meters and weighing in at 121 tons, this bronze statue of Amida Buddha is second only in height to Todaiji's Great Buddha in Nara.
Like the statue in Nara, it was originally housed inside a temple building after its casting in the 13th century. However, in the 14th and 15th centuries typhoons, tsunami and earthquakes kept destroying the hall. So, in 1498, the Amida's carers caved in to the inevitable and left the statue exposed to the elements.
Since then it has stood, implacable, the venerable symbol of Kamakura.
Kamakura's Buddha sits in the grounds of Kotoku-in, a temple belonging to the Jodo Sect of Buddhism. The Jodo are committed to the liberation of all beings, meaning the Great Buddha is there for all: saints and sinners, rich and poor, young and old. An equal opportunities Buddha, guiding all to the Pure Land.
The highlight of any visit is surely standing inside the Great Buddha, gazing up at the emptiness within, listening to the muted world carrying on outside. However Kotoku-in has more to offer.
To the right of the Buddha hangs a pair of 1.8 meter-long warazori straw sandals. Originally woven by children in 1951 in the hope that the Buddha would use them to walk the length and breadth of Japan, they are renewed every three years by children from the same club in Ibaraki.
Other sites of interest include Nio-mon gate, the richly colored entranceway where the temple's two protecting Deva Kings reside.
Behind the Buddha stands Kangetsu-do Hall which started life as part of the imperial palace in 15th century Seoul before being moved first to Tokyo and then to Kamakura. Placed in a leafy grove, it contains an Edo Period (1603-1867) image of Kannon Bosatsu, the goddess of mercy.
It is perhaps in keeping with the sensibilities of the two Buddhas celebrated here that Kotoku-in is very well set up for visitors of restricted mobility, with a well signposted barrier-free route. Tickets to Kotoku-in cost a tiny 200 yen, with an additional 20 yen charge to go inside the Buddha.
Plan to spend an hour or two to see the Great Buddha and the other treasures at Kotoku-in Temple without feeling rushed. During azalea blooming season and national holiday periods, expect to spend a longer time due to the crowds in the area.