Nature & Culture of Japan

To make your trip to Japan more interesting

Temples & Buddhism Religion Uncategorized

Secret Buddha statues (秘仏)

There are statues in Buddhist temples, and people pray in front of them. These are the center of faith. Usually, there are many Buddha statues in a temple. One of them is designated as the principal statue (本尊).

However, sometimes the principal statue is placed inside a closed door and  cannot be seen. These are called the secret statues (秘仏).

Many of the temples with secret statues belong to the Shingon sect (真言宗) and the Tendai sect (天台宗). There is a theory that these sects are related to ancient Japanese Shinto (shrines:神社).  The essence of the faith in shrines (御神体) is usually  placed in the main shrine building in an invisible manner.

Some secret statues are opened once or several times every year, and other can be seen once every 33 years. Zenkoji Temple (善光寺) in Nagano City is an absolutely secret statue and has not been opened for nearly 1000 years. In many cases, a substitute statue is placed in front of them, and visitors worship it.

Nagano City, where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held. The principal statue of Zenkoji Temple in the city cannot be seen. Zenkoji does not belong to any sect.


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