Japan, Travel

Sanjusangendo, Kyoto

From Shinto to Buddhism, to another of the big tourist destinations in Kyoto, because after Ise we were back for a few more nights before heading to Shimane. Many of you will already know about this temple, the main hall of which is 120 metres long and has 33 openings between the structural columns, hence its rather literal name Sanjussangendo (三十三間堂). From the outside, it looks a rather typical, albeit large, temple hall, but inside takes my breath away each time I enter. Stretching the full length of the hall, 1001 life-sized carved Buddha statues stand in formation on stepped platforms; they are one of Japan’s most guarded treasures.

Of course, photographing Buddha statues is not really accepted wherever you are in the world, so of course in Sanjusangendo cameras are strictly forbidden. To find good images that really convey the atmosphere inside the temple is quite difficult but luckily, in 1995 the famous Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto succeeded in a 7 year discussion to obtain permission to photograph the temple’s sacred figures. This single image gives just a glimpse of the powerful emotions you feel standing face to face with the army of 1000 statues.

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