If you’ve ever taken a train from Tokyo to Kamakura you might have passed by a large white Kannon statue, wondering what exactly it might be.
At least that’s what happened to me. It’s the Ofuna Kannon Statue of Ofuna Kannonji Temple.
How to get to Ofuna Kannon Statue
Sometimes you wonder if your only choice is to jump off a running train, but in this case it’s really simple. So simple that you might be able to quickly visit the statue on your way to somewhere else. The statue is just a short walk away from Ofuna Station in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture (map).
The Ofuna Kannon Statue of Ofuna Kannonji Temple
The statue stands on the ground of Ofuna Kannonji Temple (大船観音寺). The bodhisattva Kannon statue is 25 m tall and weighs about 1,900 tons.
If you have a closer look at the statue you’ll see an image of Amida within her “head decoration”. The red stone jewelry on the forehead is called “byakugo” (白毫). It is meant to give light to each and every place in the world.
The construction of the statue began in 1929, but wasn’t completed until 1960.
The statue isn’t that big compared to some others in Japan, but it’s still totally worth a visit. You can also enter the statue.
The temple is located on a very small hill named Mugasozan (無我相山), but is more commonly known as Kannonyama (観音山) – “Kannon Mountain”.
Atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
As the temple is dedicated to peace you’ll find stones from ground zero of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki there. Furthermore the temple hosts a long-burning flame originating from the atomic fires in Hiroshima.
The ema of Ofuna Kannonji Temple features a beautiful picture of the kannon statue along with other temple buildings surrounded by cherry blossoms. It’s certainly a very beautiful ema worth buying and taking home as a souvenir. ;)
Ofuna Kannon is the goddess of mercy and people come to pray to her when they feel lonely or homesick.
If you happen to pass by Ofuna during your trip, I highly recommend you get off at Ofuna Station to check out the kannon statue. It won’t take you more than a total of 30 minutes (including getting there from the station and back).
Oh, I’ve passed it a few times, but I never even considered that it’s a place to go to. I thought it just stands there on top of a hill and that’s it. Interesting history as well with the peace memorials! Thanks!
I often take some notes when I see something interesting while riding a train. I try to catch the name of a nearby train station and research later what it might be called and how to get there. I’ve found some interesting spots that way already. :)
Maybe you get a chance to visit in a few days! ;)
Yep. I can echo the sentiments of Silvia. Been past this place a bunch of times but never thought to visit. I guess I’ve been so concentrated on Kamakura’s ‘headline’ attractions that I’ve never given it the time. It’s an interesting idea though; taking trips to those places that you’d usually skip in order to get somewhere else.
I think the “problem” is that I’ve been to all the main attractions already – to some more than once.
So I tend to check out places I’ve not yet been to and of course I sometimes remember things like this statue that I’ve passed by several times before. ^__^
And sometimes you’re on your way back from a main attraction but still have some time. Then you’re wondering what else you chould check out. Then it’s good to know things like this that might be on the way. :)
I saw it many times while riding the train and then finally a few years decided to go to the top of the hill and check it out. There were a few other people up there at the same time. I’m guessing that they probably went up there for the same reason.
I had the feeling that some of the other people there simply came for praying, but of course I didn’t ask, so I wouldn’t know for sure. ;)
Or to visit the graveyard or attend a funeral. I think I remember some of both going on.
My take on the Goddess of Mercy statue at Ofuna, is quite different from those above. I visited it on my second trip to Tokyo while on a port visit at U.S. Naval Station Yokuska in 1967. I gathered my information from my tour guides at this statue and the one at Ryozon Kannon in Kyoto, which is a memorial to the 2 million Japanese servicemen who died in WW2. They were both built by a Japanese businessman and not the government. Over the past 50+ years, there was a blank spot for me about Ofuna,. I knew why the very moving temple, memorial, statue and Unknown Soldiers Memorial Hall dedicated to those Allied Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians who died in Japanese occupied territory and POW camps were built at Kyoto, but I wondered what Mercy was being sought at Ofuna. In 2018 I saw the first movie based on the book “Unbroken” the Louis Zamperini Story. I was very moved by this story of a WW2 POW’s survival as a slave laborer in Japan and I stayed to see where it was filmed as the credits stated that the movie was shot on the actual location where the events took place. My wife mentioned I had taken a noticeable gasp when I read that Ofuna, Japan had been the site of the most notorious and infamous Imperial Japanese Navy interrogation & torture center of World War 2. Now I believe this is the Mercy the Japanese people sought at this statue.
Judith, RM2, 1973-74. Thanks for the informative information. I visited Ofuna a few times and went by numerous more times going from Atsugi to Yokuska. I spent over 2 years in Japan, traveled around and didn’t know much of any of the places I visited. I’m learning a lot more now. Definitely have a new perspective of the places I visited. Recently found NHKJ world on my satellite and am enjoying learning and reminiscing about my time there.