Kannonyama, Gunma (Part 1)

Yesterday was another beautiful, hot sunny day in Gunma. In order to escape the worst of the heat, I got up early with Logan when he went to work and set off straight away on the bus for Kannonyama, a large area of parks and "sights" across the river from Takasaki city centre. When you look across the river from Takasaki, you can see a large statue on the horizon. When I fist saw it I assumed it was a Buddha, but I have since learned that is in fact a goddess, standing 41m tall, and it is she who is the main attraction in Kannonyama.
By a happy accident, I got off the bus a few stops too early for the statue and so ended up walking along a lovely cool woodland path. This meant that my first glimpse of the goddess was rather unexpectedly through a veil of maple leaves as I rounded a corner. Unfortunately my photos cannot quite convey how very enormous the statue is and how surprising and almost disconcerting it is to see it suddenly. It's difficult to imagine that a 41m statue can appear "suddenly" but somehow she did.
The rest of the walk upto the statue is along a rather pretty section of pedestrianised road, peppered with little stalls selling strange collections of tourist nicknacks, general bric-a-brac and cold drinks.
The statue is surrounded by a number of Buddhist shrines, all beautiful, built in the traditional Japanese style with ornate rooftops and red painted wooden structures. Surprisingly, I think these are the first shrines I have seen which contain actual images or sculptures of the deities they are built for; usually shrines are more enigmatic,  simply claiming to house a spirit, but although there is an altar for offerings, there is rarely an image. Offerings of coins and votive candles were also more prominent here, perhaps because the site is busier or more touristy than others I have visited, or perhaps because of the sheer scale and number of shrines in this location. With the shrines connected by gorgoeous red wooden bridges, arches of bamboo and what I think was wisteria, and the goddess towering over everything, I would have to say that the effect is very impressive. It really is a very beautiful place to visit, especially on such a lovely day as yesterday. 

I climbed the stairs inside the statue and saw the view from the top, which is vast and green, but rather difficult to photograph. On the way up the stairs there are more sculptures of various gods, painted in bright gaudy reds, blues and golds. There are also drawings which document the building of the statue, so that you are aware as you walk up whereabouts you are in relation to the body of the goddess. When I got back down again, I went off in search of some of the other sights in the area. But that will have to keep for another post...


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