August 12, 2012

Great Buddha, Great Cleaning

Once you see the Great Buddha of Todai-ji temple 東大寺 in Nara, you will be overwhelmed by the magnitude. The great Buddha  is 15 meters tall and the largest bronze Buddhist statue in the world. 

His face is 5.3 meters long.  He is the Cosmic Buddha, 
representing the infinite universe.

 "Ceremony of Cleaning the Great Buddha" is held every year on August 7th . The Great Buddha takes a bath once a year. This is a good chance to see in person how huge the Buddha is! 

Before the cleaning ceremony, a special ritual is held to remove the soul of Great Buddha.  So that stomping on his  head,  slapping his face to wipe off dust with dusters and mops won't be blasphemous. 

About 150 priests, worshipers and volunteers clad in white are honored to clean the Great Buddha and collect at least 10 buckets of dust.

"A Voyage to Lilliput" in  "Gulliver's Travels"??         

That tickles! 

The history of the Great Buddha is the history of destruction and restoration. The most part of the pedestal is the original cast in 752. The torso dates back to 1580. And the head was newly cast in 1692.  That's why his face is more black and shining compared with his body. There is the time difference of about 100 years between the face and the body.

 His hand is more than 2.5 meters long.

This is a secret door to climb up to the top of the head. 
The door is at the lower back.  The inside of the Great Buddha is hollow 
and the huge wooden frames are inserted to support the statue.

5 meter tall lotus flower

The great cleaning is finished. Now Great Buddha becomes more handsome and is happily smiling. 

They are going home.

Lotus flowers are symbolic and divine flowers in Buddhism. Event though lotus flowers grow in muddy ponds, the stalks rise high above the ponds and the flowers bloom purely.

Visit "Our World" and see more!!


  1. As always, I learn so much reading your posts.

    And marvellous photos. As you say, seeing the cleaning process gives so much an idea of its scale than other photos would.

    Kind regards,

  2. How serene and satisfying an experience that must be! Thanks Keiko for taking me to an interesting and fascinating ritual of the Great Buddha through your spectacular pictures and beautiful words. I remember all that you had said of Him - the significance of the posture of the hands, the reason for the shining face, the serenity and the history of the place. Its always so nice to know something more of a place that you have so vividly etched in the recesses of your memory.

    Have a nice Sunday and take care :)

  3. You take me with your story and pics in a world as foreign to me as Gullivers travels. Thank you. I allways enjoy coming here.

  4. I haven’t seen 大仏様のお身拭い yet in person. For one thing, it is held in the midst of terrible heat and humidity, so I’d like to stay home. Your narrative with awesome photos is more interesting than TV coverage of it. Did you feel dust of feel like sneezing while taking photos? Thanks for sharing. Stay cool and take care.


  5. I was knocked down with your great photos. Thank you for sharing.

  6. これだけ大きいと掃除も大変ですね。

  7. I just LOVE this post, the photos and especially the captions! Gulliver and Lilliput? That made me chuckle!

    PS: Only men do the cleaning? I guess women do enough cleaning at home, so this time it's the men's turn! :)

  8. テレビのローカルニュースでも流されていたことあったなあと、思い出しています。でも

  9. I only know this annual event on the paper or on TV. Anyone is allowed to see this cleaning? Flying trapeze looks a bit scary. Ten buckets of dust! How refreshed the Great Buddha has felt!
    Thank you for sharing an interesting event.

  10. He must feel better after the cleaning despite the indignity! I love the images of the finger work,the man looks so small and focused.The lotus field is beautiful,wonderful to see such an expanse of these flowers.Thanks for showing this very special event Keiko,it takes dusting to a new level.........literally!
    Lovely photos.


  11. snowwhiteさんならではの迫力と臨場感に満ちたお身拭いのポスト、圧倒されながらも楽しく拝見、拝読しました。最後に置かれた蓮の風景も素晴らしく、一度はこの目で見てみたいです。

  12. こうして撮られると、大仏のいかに大きいかがよく解ります。大仏の頭上に4人も人がたてるなんて!アクロバティックな大掃除ですね。よくテレビで見ますが、こんなふうにしてるんですね。

  13. I absolutely love these photos and your analogy to Lilliput … the people cleaning the statue look exactly like that! It is comforting to know such images are preserved and cared for by generations of folk from a spiritual and historical standpoint. I have several very small versions of the statue and find them very relaxing to gaze upon. Now I must remember to dust them. :)

  14. So much reverence for the spirit of Buddha, so much beauty!

  15. You blessed to have been there to take photos ~ and magnificent photography ~ Wow! (A Creative Harbor)

  16. What a wonderful post and superb, breathtaking captures, Keiko!! I agree with ladyfi, so much reverence for the spirit of Buddha and so much beauty! Very informative and beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  17. What a great post, thanks for taking us along to see this annual ritual.

  18. What a wonderful post. So informative and excellent photos to go with the commentary.

  19. The post gives a great impression. The man on the finger looks great!
    Thank you, Keiko.

  20. Rurousha,
    I have the same question with you. Why can only men join this cleaning ceremony?? I called up Todai-ji Temple to ask why, but now is in the mid of Obon which is the busiest season for priests. So a stuff member asked me to call again after Obon.



    When I am tired mentally and physically, I visit a temple to meet Buddhist statues. It is the best way of being soothed for me.

  21. Really interesting post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  22. My goodness, this is magnificent!
    Thank you so much for sharing it here.
    Love, love, love the lotus flower.
    Truly a beautiful image.
    Wishing you a wonderful day!

  23. I only know the statue of Amida Buddha at Kōtoku-in, Kamakura. I stand in front of this impressive statue and I also climbed inside the statue.

    But I really must say: the Great Buddha of Todai-ji temple is even more impressive compared to the 13.35 meters tall (including the base) outdoor Buddha at Kōtoku-in.

    Thanks for sharing the photos - it is great for me to compare both sweeping symbols of the Buddhism.


  24. Very good photo report. I wonder what your thoughts about the cleaning, the Buddha, the ceremonies, are? And why you decided to see this particular ceremony? Did you go to learn something new? If so, what was it?

  25. What a spring cleaning !!! I just love the way you explain it...

  26. I always find your posts to be most enlightening. The size of the Buddha is impressive, and I'm happy that you include the history. You've captured the cleaning very well! the first photo is my favorite, with the swish of the red duster. thank you for taking me to a place of great serenity. happy week to you Keiko.

  27. I always learn so much from your blog! I would love to see this giant Buddha and really like the way that he is taken such good care of. xx

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Marc,

    A temple has so many rituals and ceremonies, but almost all of them are conducted only by priests or the concerned except some parades. I think this cleaning ceremony is a rare case which people can join directly. Also it is a fun to watch them wipe dust off the body.

    I love to watch ceremonies or rituals or festivals. They have old and colorful histories behinds and have been passed down generation to generation. Some of them date back to more than one thousand years ago. It is a kind of time-slip like experience.

    I love to see Buddhist statues in temples, but not in museums.Because Buddhist statues were made for being prayed by people not for being admired as art.

    The reason why I go to see Buddhist statues or ceremonies is that just I love to see them very much.

    I was wondering why they hold the cleaning ceremony in August. Probably this is the reason. After the cleaning, Obon ritual is held in Great Buddha Hall on 15th August. I guess this Obon ceremony is very, very important.

    Why don't you go to see the cleaning ceremony next year?

  30. What an amazing series. Beautiful photos and sentiments!

  31. ♡¸.°.¸♫♫♪

    As fotos são impressionantes!
    Bom fim de semana!

  32. Thank you for visiting my blogg. Than I can see your wonderful series of photo.
    Truly beautiful.
    Wish you a great weekend.
    From Hilda

  33. Wow, that is beautiful and what a great tradition to share.

  34. こんばんは。迫力がありますね。奈良に行く機会は少ないのでとても参考になります。

  35. Very interesting...
    Thanks to share with us !
    Best regards from Paris,


  36. Hi
    I have never seen the cleaning before! Thank you so much for your report on it. I learn a lot from you!! Wasn't it difficult to take these photos in which several men climbed the tall statue? Your photos are really nice! I love the lotus photos too.

    I read your previous post and found it very refreshing!! Yes. Japanese wind chimes definitely make us feel cool!!

  37. Beautiful! Your posts always make me feel like I have escaped into japan for a short while :)

  38. とても面白い行事ですね。お掃除に使う道具も作業着もおそらく昔からそれほど変わっていないようですね。都会の高層ビルの外面ガラス掃除と比較するのもなんですが(笑)大仏さんも「暑い夏にさっぱりしたぁ~」と喜ばれた事でしょう。ご紹介に感謝です。


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko