Todai-ji Temple | Hokke-do (Sangatsu-do) Hall |
Hokke-do Hall is located in the east hillside area on the premises of Todai-ji Temple. Built in the eighth century, it is the oldest structure of Todai-ji. It is also known as Sangatsu-do Hall, the literal translation of which is the Hall of March.
At the instance when people enter the Hall, many take a deep breath, astonished by the size and density of Buddha statues.
Nine large statues, each around three to four meters tall, are arranged symmetrically on the stage. They look as if they dominate the whole space. Actually, one more statue is in the Hall but it is hidden from the public behind the door 364 days a year. The door opens only on December 16, every year.
In the center is a gold statue of Kannon. He has broad shoulders and a muscular chest but still has a balanced and elegant body shape, creating total beauty.
It might be difficult to see his crown clearly, because of the tallness of the statue and the darkness of the room. But try it, anyway. It is so delicately and artistically designed: it has a very small Buddha statue in the center and many lines radiating from the Buddha.
You may notice that the statue also has a halo behind his body. The shadows of radial lines and flame-shaped decorations are cast on the white wall in the back by the lighting, which adds depth to the scene.
The two statues on the both sides of Kannon on the front row are Kongo Rikishi. The statue on the left opens his mouth, saying “Ah” and the one on the right has his mouth closed, saying “Um.” As the alphabet of Sanskrit starts with “a” and ends with “m,” it is said that the two letters mean the beginning and the end of the whole universe.
The pair is often situated in the gate of a temple. The gigantic statues at the Great South Gate (Nandai-mon) are also Kongo Rikishi. The pair in Hokke-do Hall wear clothes and armor and look more sophisticated.
There are tatami benches in front of the Buddha statues for the comfort of visitors. How about sitting and relaxing on the bench for a while to immerse yourself in the world of the Buddha?
The building and all Buddha statues are National Treasures.
7:30 to 17:30 from Apr.to Oct.
8:00 to 17:00 from Nov.to Mar.
Adult: 600 yen
406-1, Zoushi-cho, Nara City 630-8211 Japan
* You are always asked to check information on the official website before you visit.
Last updated: October 1, 2019
Text by: Yumi