Sendai Daikannon: Once the Tallest Statue in Japan

Completed in 1991, Sendai Daikannon was once the tallest statue in Japan. It stands at an impressive 92 meters high and it is the 8th tallest statue in the world. The statue is located in the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai, which has a population of a little more than 1 million. Sendai has one of the most stunning and recognizable skylines thanks to the statute towering over the city.

Sendai Daikannon front

The statue is the representation of Kannon, the goddess of mercy in Japanese Buddhism. Kannon is not a Buddha but she is a Bodhisattva. The difference between those terms is that Bodhisattva can achieve nirvana but consciously delays it due to their compassion for the beings on earth. Kannon is one of the most popular deities in Japan, even more so than Buddha.

Sendai Daikannon from the side

The statue also has other additions to the traditional image of Kannon. While many iterations of the deity show her sitting, the Sendai statue is standing. In her right hand, she holds a gem which is the wish-fulfilling gem. Being the goddess of mercy, Buddhists believe that she also grants wishes. Moreover, her left hand holds a flask from which water of wisdom falls.

statues inside the statue
Warattaya Nilkuha

Aside from being one of the tallest statues in Japan and in the world, Sendai Daikannon is also a temple. There are 12 stories inside the statue all of which can be visited. On the ground floor, there are 33 small Kannon statues. Each statue represents the different forms and shapes the deity could take.

Sendai Daikannon towering over the town
Japan Travel Guide

In addition to the little Kannon statues, in each story, there are Buddha statues, 108 in total, to be exact. Similar to the Kannon statues, the Buddha ones represent each human emotion and desire. Sendai Daikannon management allows people to make offerings and leave gifts to the statues in order to make wishes and pray.

the replica of the statue

Visitors can go up to the 12th floor by an elevator. Through the elevator ride, the statue offers a great view of the city and a chance to understand how tall Sendai Daikannon really is. Former visitors suggest that while going down, one must take the staircases and visit each floor which has statues dedicated to various deities and celestial beings in Buddhism.

statue staircase
Pri Yokomizo

One of the most popular small temples inside the statue is the temple of Mahakala. According to the story, centuries ago, a peasant working for the town’s chief spilled oil onto the statue. While he feared that this would anger the deity, contrarily, the chief’s business boomed and he became very rich. After this incident, people would come to a statue of Mahakala spill oil, and ask for wealth.

statue staircases from above
Visit Japan

Although Sendai Daikannon lost the title of the tallest statue in Japan to Ushiku Daibutsu, a Buddha statue in Ushiku, two years after its completion, it is still one of the most impressive sites in Japan. It is the tallest statue of a goddess in the country and has remained a popular attraction in Sendai both for foreigners and local visitors.

Sendai Daikannon over traffic
Nathan Russell