Gyoki was a Japanese Buddhism priest of Nara period. He was a charismatic monk of the ancient Japanese Buddhism. He was called by the honorific title of Gyoki Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Gyoki).
Gyoki was born in Kawachi province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) in 668. He studied Buddhism under the priest Dosho of hokoji Temple in Asuka, and took Buddhist vows at the age of 15. He also studied civil engineering under Dosho. Advocating hat Buddhism should be independent of the regal power, he propagated Buddhism for salvation of the suffering people. He also contributed to social welfare like building temples, roads, bridges, irrigation reservoirs. The Imperia court was afraid of his overwhelming influence on common people and clamped down on his activities blaming that he had violated the law to regulate priests and nuns.
However, when Emperor Shomu asked Gyoki to help raise funds to build Daibutsu (a great Buddha statue) in Nara, Gyoki accepted the emperor’s request, and immediately began fund-raising campaigns. He was recognized by the Imperia court and was given a rank of Daisojo (the Great Priest). At the age of 80, he had passed away at Sugawaradera Temple in Nara in 749 just before the consecrating ceremony for the statue took place.
The legends about Gyoki Bosatsu are referred to in many books such as “the Nihon Ryoiki,” “the Honcho Hokke Kenki” and “the Nihon Ojo Gokurakuki.” It is said that he might have drawn the oldest Japanese map, “Gyoki-zu.”
Shoboji Temple in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture houses an image of the Buddha that is 13.63 meters high. This is Japan’s largest Kanshitsubutsu (an image of Buddha made of dry lacquer). It is popularly called “the Basket Buddha” because of its rare method of woven bamboo construction. It consists of wood and bamboo frame that was plastered with clay and then covered with washi on which Buddhist scriptures were written. After that the image was finished with coats of golden lacquer. After 38 years of construction work, the statue was completed in 1832. With his upper body leaning a little forward and the thumb and index finger on the right hand forming a circle, the Great Buddha shows a very gentle countenance. The cross section drawing of the Great Buddha Statue shows that inside the Buddha, there is another statue of the Yakushi Nyorai, which we cannot see directly.
Rinnoji Temple is the generic name of the Tendai sect temples on Mount Nikko in Nikko City, Tochigi Pref. The principal images are two sets of three images of Buddha; Nikko Sanja Gongen Honjibutsu, which is composed of three wooden statues of Senju Kannon, Amida Nyorai and Bato Kannon, and Tosho Sanja Gongen Honjibutsu, which is a wall hanging Buddha images of Yakushi Nyorai, Amida Nyorai and Shaka Nyorai.
History of Rinnoji Temple dates back to the end of Nara period (710-794), when Priest Shodo built a temple in Mount Nikko. During the Edo period, the temple was flourished as a guardian temple of Toshogu Shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. However, as Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were separated by the law in the Meiji period, a lot of temples on Mount Nikko were merged to Rinnoji, and since then a framework of two shrines (Toshogu and Futarasan Shrine) and one temple was established (Rinnoji). Rinnoji Temple is Nikko’s most important temple with a long history and close connection with the Tokugawa family.
Komagata Daibutsu is a great Buddha statue located in Naganuma-cho, Inage-ku, Chiba City. It was set up in 1703 by Noda Gennai, who was a pharmacy commission merchant in Edo and developed paddy-fields in Naganuma village. He collected voluntary subscriptions from 60 nearby villages and set it up to pray for cure of illness and safe travel of the people and horses going up and down the Onari Kaido Road. It was designed and cast by Hashimoto Izaemon Fujiwara Shigehiro, a casting workman in Sanmacho, Asakusa, Edo. This 2.4 m tall statue is the image of seated Amida Nyorai making Jou-in (meditation mudra) in front of the abdomen. The head and body were separately cast and joined together. The list of donators inscribed on the back of the statue shows that this Great Buddha was worshipped by a people in a wide range of area including Matsudo and Inbanuma. The Great Buddha still gently watches over the traffic on the Naganuma Kaido Street.
Asukadera located in Asuka-mura, Takaichi-gun, Nara Pref. is a historic temple belonging to Buzan School of Shingon Sect. To be accurate, its name “Asukadera” is the old name and its present formal name is “Angoin Temple.” Its Sango (the mountain name of a temple) is Torigata-yama. This is the oldest temple in Japan, which was established by Soga no Umako in 596 and had flourished until the Middle Ages. The temple was moved to Nara, following the capital relocation and changed its name to “Gankoji Temple.” However, the original temple remained in Asuka and was called “ex-Gankoji Temple.” Asukadera Temple was once destroyed by fire in 1196 but restored in the Edo period and has existed hitherto. The main object of worship is the bronze image of Shaka Nyorai (popularly called Asuka Daibutsu) cast by the master Buddhist sculptor, Kuratsukuri no Tori, in 606. It is the oldest extant image of Buddha in Japan. This is the place where Prince Nakano Oe and Nakatomi no Kamatari first encountered.
In the east of Nara City, farther inside of deep green at the foot of Misaka Mountain, stands a big temple. There you can find a colossal Buddha statue, or Daibutsu, sits gracefully and illuminates its gilded bronze. This is Toudai-ji Temple, a head temple of Kegon-shuu religious sect. The statue depicts the sect’s principal Buddha image called Rushanabutsu, or Buddha Vairocana, simply known as “Nara no Daibutsu” in Japan. Toudai-ji was first built as Konshu-ji Temple in 728 by Emperor Shoumu, to hold a memorial service for his son. The Buddha statue was completed and the eye-opening ceremony was held in 752. However, it was not until 789 that the temple building and Daibutsu-den the Great Buddha Hall were finished. Since then, the statue has been repaired and renovated a number of times due to damages inflicted by the flames of wars. According to historical records, both arms were recast during the Azuchi-momoyam period, and the head was also recast during the Edo period. Apart from the Daibutsu statue, a building in Todai-ji complex called Nigatsu-dou has recently become quite well-known. It is where the Omizutori ceremony or Water-Drawing festival is held. The festival is held every spring, where people prays for world peace and good harvest, and attracts many visitors. Toudai-ji Temple was registered a World Heritage site as “Historic Monument of Ancient Nara” in 1998.
Kamakura Daibutsu or Great Buddha used to be housed in a building called Kamakura Daibutsu-den Hall. This Daibutsu sits as Honzon (the object of respect) of Kotokuin Temple located in Hase, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Pref. The construction of the statue as well as its hall started in 1238 and completed in 6 years. However, the original statue was a wooden one and completely wrecked by a storm. Later in 1252, the construction of a new bronze statue started. The height of the statue including its base is 13.35 m, its face length is 2.35 m, and the weight is about 121 tons. The statue was designated as a National Treasure in 1958. The size of the housing hall, which was constructed at the same time as the statue, was 44 m from east to west and 42.5 m from north to south. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged by an earthquake and ensuing tsunami in the Muromachi period (the late 15th century). Since then the Great Buddha has never been housed, and has been sitting in the open air. In 2004, the remains of Daibutsu-den Hall together with the precinct of Kotokuin Temple were designated as a National Historic Site.
The Takaoka Giant Buddha Statue is a symbol of Takaoka city, Toyama prefecture. For material it uses bronze, a major industry in Takaoka. It has a height of 15.58m and is counted as one of the three largest Buddha statues in Japan (the others being in Nara and Kamakura).
The first statue here was erected in 1221. Minamoto-no-Yoshikatsu, the Lord of the Settsu provinces, went to Etchū Province and initiated construction of a wooden statue about 5m high on Nijyo Mountain. Later the 2nd Lord of Kaga, Maeda Toshinaga transferred it here to Takaoka.
However, the statues were destroyed by fire several times and consequently, the citizens decided to create a fire-proof monument. As a result, starting from 1907, construction began and was finished by 1933. Bronze craftsmen from Takaoka created it by hand, and it has become the pride of Takaoka.