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The Usuki Magaibutsu

Oita remains one of my favorite areas of Kyushu to explore. After work, I'd often hop in my car and drive in the general direction of either Beppu (on the Yamanami Highway) or Oita city (on the 57), and check out signs, attractions, unmarked roads, and other promising prospects that would cross my path. On one of these excursions, while driving through Usuki City (near the coast) I happened upon this place.


Carved into the soft volcanic rock, spewed out a long, long time ago from a turbulent eruption originating from Mt. Aso, were a pantheon of buddhas. Created during the 12th and 14th centuries, these buddhas are remarkably old. The same virtues of the rock face which allowed the rock to be easily shaped, erosion and other destructive forces over time have taken a toll on the buddhas. The expansion and contraction of water within the stone, and the moss which takes root on the buddhas are just a few examples of challenges facing those carrying out preservation work. Researchers and preservationists scanned the buddhas with a Cyrax2400 and MINOLTA VIVID 900, creating a really cool movie that was used to assess the state of the buddhas.

The 59 individual buddhas are located at different areas all over the huge premisis, but the most magnicient specimens are enclosed within a structure that serves to protect the main buddhas from the elements.

The buddhas here are so well sculpted that they almost seem alive. The dim lighting and the relief of the stone make them even more eerie, reminiscent of someone frozen in a bed of carbonite, caught in a moment of time, forever.

What amazes me about these and other buddhas I have encountered in Oita is that the sculptures fit in perfectly with their environment. They belong there. It seems that as much consideration was given to the buddhas themselves as to their placement in the composition as a whole.

Traces of pigment are still evident on these buddhas, but I think I prefer the current look. The faded stain on the buddhas is more fitting in their natural context than a bright, new coat could ever be.

I think one reason why I relate to these buddhas is because they look relaxed. They are the incarnation of chill.


Comments (4)


Wow. Gotta take a tour there sometime, maybe next October. Very, very sacred....

may sona:



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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 8, 2004 10:34 PM.

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