Udono Sekibutsu 鵜殿石仏群
Ancient Buddhist rock carvings shrouded in mystery
In Ouchi Town in Saga, there's a mysterious and sacred site known as Udono Sekibutsu. The site is filled with magaibutsu, or images carved into cliffs or caves.
There are no official records on these fascinating Buddhist images. It's thought that this was once a cave, but the overhead collapsed and exposed the interior.
How to Get There
From Saga Station, take the JR Karatsu Line to Ochi Station. This ride is approximately 51 minutes. From Ochi Station, it's around a 21-minute walk, with signs in both Japanese and English.
From Hakata Station, take the JR Kamome Line to Saga Station. This ride takes around 45 minutes, depending on which train you take. From there, you will change to the JR Karastsu to Ochi Station and follow the same directions as above.
As legend has it, a famous monk did the first work
The legend is that Kukai, the founder of Shingon, one of the two major sects of esoteric Buddhism, stopped here around the ninth century and inscribed the first carvings (which are no longer visible).
The other 60 or so distinct images of various Buddhist deities are thought to have been carved in the 14th century. There are many old statues of the same deities prevalent throughout the site of interest.
This site is much different from established temples or shrines. Not only are the images and statues fascinating, but the mystery of the place is a large part of its allure.