One night in 1949, a 43-year-old acupuncturist in Nagoya named Hidenobu Maeda had a strange dream that compelled him to build a daibutsu, or great statue of Buddha. Although a total amateur in sculpture, Maeda decided to do as he was told, and completed the reinforced concrete statue five years later.
Standing (or rather, sitting) 60 feet tall, the Hotei Buddha is the largest privately owned daibutsu in Japan, even bigger than the famous Great Buddha of Nara. This Buddha is noted for its rather unusual appearance—often described as being humorously out of proportion—but it’s still a Great Buddha. A man of feeble health, Maeda created it in the hopes of comforting the local people after the harrowing effects of World War II and various diseases. The statue depicts Yakushi-nyorai, the Buddha of Healing.
Originally, the term “Hotei Buddha” referred to the four-foot-tall 12th-century wooden Buddha statue kept at a local temple in the town of Hotei and not shown to the public. Possibly due to Hotei, the Japanese god of fortune, the larger statue earned its current name, despite being located not in Hotei but in the neighboring town of Kiga.
Now nestled in a residential neighborhood, the Hotei Buddha sits next to an acupuncture clinic and is surrounded by cherry blossom trees. At the time of its completion, however, its surroundings were only rice fields and farms. Most of the few visitors today, expectedly, come to see the statue out of curiosity rather than a sense of worship.
Thanks to its massive height, the Buddha can also be seen from the windows of an Inuyama Line train as it runs between the Hotei and Kōnan stations.
Know Before You Go
The statue is about a 15-minute walk from Hotei Station.