Nara has one 15m high, Kamakura has one 13m high, and the city of Morioka, the capital of Iwate Prefecture, has one 10m high…What am I talking about? A Daibutsu (大仏), or Big Buddha, of course!
It comes as quite a surprise that a city not typically on the tourist map actually has its own Buddha. It was certainly a surprise for some locals I spoke to who didn’t seem to know what I was talking about and kept asking me if I meant the Buddha in Kamakura. I first discovered Morioka’s Big Buddha while doing a Google Map search and noticed my boss had written a review of it. I also found reference to it on two maps of Morioka, one of them calling it the ‘Great Buddha of Morioka.’ Further scouring the internet, I only came across only one additional hit where it was mentioned in a person’s blog post.
The Buddha is located at Shoonji Temple in Kamiyonai town, which is about 7km from central Morioka. Buses are available from the Bus Centre/in front of Nanak department store and one way will cost you 390 yen. If you do opt for this though, be warned that buses out in that area are infrequent and you may be waiting a while if you miss one on the way home.
I actually decided to walk there and back and if the weather is good like it is in spring or autumn, it’s a nice way to spend a morning or afternoon. One thing I didn’t realize though is that it’s all uphill on the way there. The consolation, on the other hand, was knowing it would be downhill on the way back.
I have no idea how most locals don’t know about the Buddha because it is huge and clearly visible from the road. Walking along, you suddenly see a massive head rising up out of the trees. You cannot miss it!
Some people have described the place as kind of creepy and although it’s not scary per se, there is something about it. The weather was quite hot and sunny the whole time I was walking there and back, but it did cloud over and a cold breeze did spring up while I was in the temple grounds taking photos. I can’t explain it, but I encourage other people to check out Morioka’s Great Buddha and to see what they think.