Spring break doesn’t mean more free time, actually, I am even busier since classes are over. I still allowed myself to go on a one-day trip to a nearby prefecture, Ibaraki. The main reason I wanted to go there is to see the great Ushiku Daibutsu, a 120 meter statue of buddha. Although I’m no buddhist, I have a strong fascination for gigantic structures that stand out of the scenery. After seeing a few pictures of this statue, I knew I have to go see it by myself !
We decided to rent a cheap car to have more freedom to explore the area. Actually, it turned out to be a lot shorter than to go by train. We first catched a glimpse of the statue from the highway. The area is rather rural, with no tall buildings, which makes the statue stand out even more. We had no GPS or map, so we actually followed the statue through small roads surrounded by rice fields.
We finally arrived ! I was surprised to see that the area in front and on the sides of the statue is a vast cemetery. We went on a week day, so there was almost nobody there. At the entrance, there are a few souvenirs shops which are not very interesting and feel quite old. We passed the shops and headed for the statue. The entrance fee was 700 yens (in high season it’s 800 yens).
The entrance is on the back. Shoes must be taken off and carried in a plastic bag. I was quite surprised at the beginning, because as soon as we took of our shoes the door opened automatically and we had to stand in the entrance. Then the lights were turned out and there was an introduction message. It almost felt like a Disney attraction !
The area right after the entrance looked quite interesting with eerie green lights. Then we went up and there was a small museum. One of the statue’s toe was displayed. This section felt quite old and run-down, in contrast to the almost futuristic atmosphere at the entrance.
We took an elevator up to the chest of the statue, where we could see the scenery. The windows were quite small so the view was limited, but it was interesting nonetheless. We also had access to the shoulders.
In the picture above you can see the geometrically organized cemetery.
The staircase design was… interesting.
Going back down was the “World of the Lotus Sanctuary”, surrounded by more than 3000 statues of Buddha. These are actually used for memorial services, and we could see many names under the statues.
The last area was for visitors to write sutras. There were also interesting drawings on the walls.
Included in the admission price was also the access to a “rabbit garden” just behind the buddha statue. Rabbits were inside a rather large pen in which visitors were allowed to enter. It was possible to buy carrots to give the rabbits. There were also some guinea pigs who were separated from the rabbits, and and a peacock (!).
Outside there was a larger pen for squirrels. There were many squirrels and they approached people without fear to get food. I was surprised as they looked quite different from Canadians squirrels ! In the same area were two goats and a huge black pig, who all looked quite sad. I didn’t feel too comfortable being there and left quickly.
We went back to the entrance by walking through the large garden. Since it’s February, there was not much too see, but I’m sure it’s very pretty in spring.
At last, I had to take this classic shot with a plane :
Very near the statue, there is an outlet shopping complex. We went there only to realize that it was closed on that particular day (without specific reason). I guess it was better for my wallet to avoid shopping occasions. At least, I took these super exotic shots of Buddha with the outlet palm trees !