Otagi Nenbutsu Temple outside of Arashiyama houses a collection of 1,200 whimsical statues representing the disciples of Buddha called rakans. Kocho Nishimura, the head priest of the temple in 1955, who was also a master sculptor decided to instruct devotees to carve their own statues. Since these stone rakans were carved by amateurs, each statue is unique and usually humorous looking. Some are holding daily objects like a cassette player or a tennis racket or a sake cup, others have funny facial expressions like sticking out the tongue or winking. I don’t think many people visit this temple and it was a pleasant change to the noise and crowds at the other more popular temples in Kyoto. We were mostly by ourselves and took our time wandering around looking at all the different statues. The location of Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is a bit out of the way and we got there by taxi. Alternatively, there is a bus stop right outside the temple but buses are not very frequent or it is about a half hour walk from Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
I am glad we took the time to venture out to this quaint and unusual temple. Do visit if you are in the area. It is well worth the trek.
The next few posts will be on my visit to the art islands of Naoshima and Teshima in the Seto Inland Sea. Stayed tuned!
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