Upon its completion in 1991, the towering statue of the gem-bearing Nyoirin Kannon in Sendai, Japan was the tallest statue in the world. It was soon displaced from the top spot, but currently stands as the world’s fifth tallest statue.
The city of Sendai (pop. 1 million) in the Tōhoku region of Japan has an instantly recognizable skyline, thanks to the massive Sendai Daikannon statue that stands on a hill to the north of the city center.
The statue represents the gem-bearing Nyoirin Kannon, a Japanese rendition of the Buddhist bodhisattva associated with compassion. As well as being a goddess of mercy, she is also a wish-fulfilling kannon, as revealed by the wishing gem she holds in her right hand. In her left hand, meanwhile, is a water flask, from which the waters of wisdom flow.
At 328 feet (100 m) tall, Sendai Daikannon was once the tallest statue in the world. It held this honor from its completion in 1991 until 1993, when it was outranked by the newly-built Ushiku Daibutsu, also in Japan. It currently ranks as the fifth tallest statue in the world, but remains the tallest statue of a goddess in Japan.
An elevator takes visitors to the top of Sendai Daikannon, where a series of windows offer impressive views across the city. But apart from the views, the statue is also a place of worship and reflection. And, for anyone with plenty of loose change, it’s an almost endless opportunity for making wishes.
As you enter the statue’s ground floor you’ll see 33 kannon statues, each representing the different forms that the kannon “goddess” can take. Across from these stand statues of demonic creatures, each representing a month from Chinese astrology.
And after you’ve taken the elevator to the top of the statue, make sure you walk back down using the stairwell. During your descent you’ll pass by a series of 108 Buddhist statues, representing every kind of human emotion and earthly desire. Offerings can be left at all of these statues, so whether you want to cure your apathy, control your jealousy, or clear out your negative energy, all you need to do is find the right statue, make a wish or say a little prayer to it, and leave a small donation.
Know Before You Go
Sendai Daikannon is located at 31-36 Nakayamaminami, next door to a golf course and overlooking the city of Sendai in the Tōhoku region of the Miyagi prefecture. You can get there by taking the Sendai Municipal Bus from JR Sendai Station, West Exit, bus stop 19. It takes about 35 minutes; the statue is a short walk from the Sendai Daikannon-mae bus stop. The statue is open May to October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from November to April from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Entrance is 500 yen (about $4.50 US).