Location: Izumi Ward, Sendai
The Goddess In The Distance
If you've been to Sendai at least once, then you've probably wondered “what is that huge white figure in the distance?” Located north of downtown Sendai and spottable all across the city, is the 100 meter-tall Sendai Daikannon, one of the 5 largest statues in the world.
The impressive statue represents the Japanese Buddhist Boddhisattva, a Goddess of Mercy known as Kannon, who is not only very popular in Japan and but also in Sendai specifically. From the 18th century onward, Sendai was —and still is— known for its "Thirty-Three Kannon Pilgrimage Course". It is this course, which can still be walked today, that likely influenced the construction of Sendai Daikannon.
In Japan, Kannon is most commonly depicted as a beautiful woman holding a jewel capable of granting wishes in her right hand and a jar filled with water of wisdom in her left.
Being the largest Kannon statue in the whole world, visitors are often left in awe at her imposing size. Standing on the top of a hill, she towers over the city like a guardian watching over it.
More interesting still, Sendai Daikannon is actually not a statue at all, but in fact, a building! Enter through the Dragon Mouth entrance and discover the many mysteries that await inside.
On the ground floor, you'll come across 33 human-sized sculptures displaying the 33 different representations of Kannon across Japan; all varying in shape, color, and size.
On the opposite side of these are the demonic-like figures of the twelve protectors of Buddhism, each representing one of the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac. This is a fun opportunity to explore these statues and find which among them is your protector!
Make your way to the top floor either by walking up 12 floors, or by taking the elevator, to a breathtaking panorama of Izumi Ward and Sendai City. Sendai Daikannon is one of the only buildings in Sendai that offers a comprehensive view of Sendai, ranging from the mountains all the way to the city center. In good weather, it's even possible to sneak a view of the ocean from up here!
108 Buddhist Statues
Venture down the stairs to find the 108 statues of different buddhas, Boddhisattvas and Nio (kings of wisdom) in Buddhism. It is said that these statues represent different human emotions or desires, such as jealousy or greed.
Be sure to bring some coins along with you since every statue inside Sendai Daikannon accepts offerings (this is by no means obligatory, but can be a fun cultural thing to participate in). By counting the coins each statue recieves, you can figure out which one's are the locals favorites!
Peacefully sitting in the gardens is a small shrine enshrining Daikokuten, the Japanese equivalent of Mahākāla, a Buddhist god of wealth, commerce and trade. The Daikokuten statu, which is also famous for love prayers, will grant anyone's wish if oil is poured onto it!
Charms and trinkets are also made available as you make your way down the Sendai Daikannon and make the perfect souvenir of your pilgrimage journey. You can also display them at the shrine to aid in wish-fulfilment!
A Fun Excursion for Tourists and Locals Alike
Although Sendai residents are very familiar with the Sendai Daikannon statue and can admire it everyday from many points across the city, it still likely remains very mysterious to many who have never ventured near or inside it. It's impressive size and the incredible treasures hidden inside are just waiting to be discovered by tourists and locals alike!
Official Website: daikannon.com
Address: 31-36, Nakayama-minami, Sanezawa, Izumi-ku, Sendai
Hours: May 1st – October 31st 10:00AM–4:00PM, Novembet 1st – April 30th 10:00AM–3:30PM
Entrance Fee: 500 yen
Access: 35 minute bus ride from Sendai Station, bus stop 14 to Daikannon-mae bus stop.