Easily one of my favorite temples. Ever. I’ve seen a lot of temples too! You can find a plethora all over Asia. Each country has their own style when creating them, but none of them seem to have the heart or character Otagi Nenbutsu-ji has.
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is a temple of healing, fitting since it has had a rough go over the last few centuries. Originally established in the Nara period (766), this temple has been destroyed many many times, usually by floods and typhoons. It wasn’t until this century that the rebuild finally stuck and the temple is holding up well against the elements. A monk/Buddhist sculptor, Kocho Nishimura, was put in charge of the reconstruction worked tirelessly and by the early 80’s his repairs were taking form. Over the next decade, worshipers would come and carve a Rakan and place it on the temple grounds.
Rakan are considered disciples of Buddha and each have their own personality but usually show a playful attitude. The temple is covered with 1200 of these adorable little guys and you can’t help but smile when you walk through! As time passes, the Rakans are becoming covered in moss. The moss gives them an almost Chia pet appearance. You can’t help but love each of them!
There are drinking buddies and pet lovers. You will find some that a squishing their cheeks and doing handstands. What I love most is, these statues were carved by individuals expressing themselves at their happiness. What a wonderful concept. A temple dedicated to being your true happy-self.
As you enter the temple, the goal is to try and find a Rakan that speaks to you; carries similar traits to you. I have been to this temple three times so far. Each time I visit I find myself in different sculptures but I have a few favorites that always make me smile.
Do you see a Rakan that speaks to you?
This temple is a bit of a walk to get to. After walking past what seems to the be, the last house on the historic street, Toriimoto, continue up the main road. You will walk past a parking strip and on the left-hand side you will see the entrance.
Time: 8am – 5pm