The Mokujiki Buddhas are Buddhist statues carved by the traveling monk Mokujiki Shonin in the late Edo period (1603 – 1868). Mokujiki Shonin was born in 1718 in Maruhata, Furuseki Village, Kai Province (in modern day Minobu Town, Yamanashi Prefecture) and joined a Buddhist monastery at age 22. At the age of 45, he underwent mokujiki, a type of rigorous training which entails not eating certain cereals (such as rice, wheat, or soybeans) nor any cooked foods, subsisting on wild plants and the fruits and nuts of trees alone. In 1773, when Mokujiki Shonin was 56 years old, he set out on a pilgrimage to visit all Kokubunji temples across Japan, and it is said that he started carving Buddhist statues after traveling to Hokkaido at age 61. Eventually, he made a “prayer to carve one thousand Buddhist statues”, and by the time of his passing at age 93, he had carved more than one thousand Buddhist statues while continuing his trek across all of Japan.
In 1800 (when Mokujiki Shonin was 83 years old), just before realizing his great ambition to travel around all of Japan, he stayed in the Fujieda and Yaizu districts for nearly 2 months, leaving behind 13 Buddhist statues and eight works of painting and calligraphy. On the back of each Mokujiki Buddha, it is written in black ink that the statue is one of his thousand Buddhist statues, along with its date of completion. From these records, it is known that Mokujiki Shonin carved these sculptures while traveling back and forth between several temples in the area from Okabe-juku to Mt. Takakusayama. Mokujiki Shonin carved these statues in the latter part of his old age. They are called “Smiling Buddhas” because of their gentle expressions and smiling faces. Those who look upon the faces of these smiling Buddhas will feel naturally at ease and surrounded by a warm atmosphere. Perhaps because of their gentle and familiar features, these statues were once used as toys for children.Currently, there are 11 Buddhist statues in the area, some of which are enshrined in the main hall of Buddhist temples. They are available for viewing, pending contact in advance.
Come and see their gentle smiles as you follow in the footsteps of Mokujiki Shonin.
Temples with Mokujiki Buddhas
1) Kotaiji Temple (424 Okabe, Okabe-cho, Fujieda-shi, Tel: 054-667-0255) : Jundei Kannon Bosatsu (Cundi-Avalokitesvara) statue, Shotoku Taishi (Prince Shotoku) statue
2) Jurinji Temple (925 Miwa, Okabe-cho, Fujieda-shi, Tel: 054-667-0339) : Kokuzo Bosatsu (Akasagarbha Bodhisattva) statue, Koyasu Jizo Bosatsu (Childbirth Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva) statue
3) Jorakuin Temple (424 Takata, Fujieda-shi, Tel: 054-638-1914) : Bishamonten (Vaisravana) statue
4) Bairinin Temple (964 Katsurashima, Okabe-cho, Fujieda-shi, Tel: 054-667-0863) : Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru) statue, Koyasu Kannon Bosatsu (Childbirth Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) statue
5) Houshakuji Temple (692 Ishiwakishimo, Yaizu-shi, Tel: 054-629-1770) : Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva) statue
*If you would like to view any of the statues, make sure to contact the temple where it is kept in advance. When visiting, be sure to observe good manners and observe the statues quietly.
Three more Buddhist statues are kept at the Yaizu City History and Folklore Museum, but they are not normally available for viewing.