Otagi Nenbutsu-ji – Kyoto, Japan - Atlas Obscura

This peaceful Buddhist temple is nestled atop a hill, surrounded by more than 1,000 striking stone sculptures. Remote and off-the-beaten tourist track, it feels like an oasis of calm, devoid of the masses of visitors that flock to Kyoto’s more central sites.

But things haven’t always been so serene. A typhoon decimated the original eighth-century temple in the 1950s, destroying parts of the structure. It was then decided that the temple would be rebuilt in a different, safer location.

Rather than abandon all hope for the ancient temple, one of its priests began rebuilding it piece by piece atop its new patch of land. He did more than just reconstruct the building. As he worked, also added Buddhist stone carvings to the property. He also taught the town people how to create the carvings, so their work is now mixed in with his own.

Now, 1,200 stone statues depicting Buddha’s disciples fill the space. They spill down the hillside and line the paths like peaceful, moss-covered guardians. Gazing into the serene stone faces is an almost meditative experience.

Know Before You Go

It's open between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Admission costs 300 yen. There's a parking lot that can accommodate 10 cars.

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