Takaoka: A Metalworking Townscape Beneath the Buddha’s Gaze

takaoka a metalworking townscape beneath the buddhas gaze

Takaoka, a city in Toyama Prefecture, has been a center for metal casting since the early years of the Edo period (1603–1868) and is the country’s leading producer of copperware. Here we introduce the Takaoka Daibutsu (Great Buddha), symbol of Takaoka’s craft, and the Kanayamachi heritage district, the birthplace of the local cast-metal industry and a popular tourist attraction.

Saying “Daibutsu” reminds many people of the Great Buddha statue at Tōdaiji in Nara or the open-air seated giant at Kamakura’s Kōtokuin. Those are two widely known historic “greats,” but Japanese tend to like groupings of three, so which are the contenders for the number three spot? In the running are the Takaoka Daibutsu (at Daibutsuji, Takaoka), the Gifu Daibutsu (at Shōbōji, Gifu), the Hyōgo Daibutsu (at Nōfukuji, Kobe), and the Tokyo Daibutsu (at Jōrenji, Itabashi). Although factors like history, prestige, size, and artistic value come into play when rankings are assigned, each of these statues is venerated by its local community. Local Great Buddhas are also tourist draws, and each locality vies to outdo the others in claiming its own statue as one of the “big three” Daibutsu of Japan…

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