Nokogiriyama: 1500 Arhats

This is a long path containing 1500 Arhats. This long path winds left and right and up and down past shelves, caves and alcoves in the rock, some naturally formed, some man-made, and each clustered with carved statues of Buddhist devotees and deities. Sadly, there are only around 538 arhats now. Many of those originally placed here were destroyed in a nationwide wave of anti-Buddhist violence, prompted by the government’s establishment of Shinto as the state religion and the outlawing of Buddhist practice at the start of the Meiji Period in 1868; however, those that survived are still numerous enough to display a tremendous variety of expressions. They’re standing, sitting and occasionally reclining; smiling, frowning, and sometimes scowling each other in a rather un-saintly fashion. Some of them chat convincingly with their neighbours, while others perch in hermit-like solitude. Many are badly weathered or cracked, and lack limbs or heads – beheading was a common method of Meiji-era violation – but those that have made it through the ages intact display the exquisite craftsmanship, lavish attention to detail, and imagination of their makers.

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