Years ago I traveled solo to Japan following a business trip to the Republic of China (Taiwan). I doubted I’d ever get to Asia again and wanted to see as much as I could.

I visited the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a massive bronze sculpture, originally cast in 1252.  His size creates a sense of power, but his peaceful expression conveys serenity. He originally resided in a wooden temple but a series of typhoons and tidal waves destroyed that temple and others that followed. Since 1495 — over 500 years — he meditates out in the elements, calmly enduring rain, heat, and snow.

I took my photo during the summer:

Great Buddha at Kamakura 1

I recently acquired a replica of this Great Buddha. I bought him at an estate sale and he came with a note taped to his bottom: “1994, To Vicky from Haruko Sato, wife of Bishop of Kamakura (Great Daibutsu).” Great Daibutsu means Great Buddha.

That stirred memories of my visit — he still inspires awe. And a Japanese bishop’s wife gave this statue as a gift to a woman visiting the shrine. I needed to do him justice.

1.  I could leave him matte black, his original state when the gift was exchanged.

Great Buddha Black Matte

2. I could recreate the verdigris patina that I used on my cherub candle holders and attempt to match Buddha’s present-day patina.

Cherub Candleholders

3. I decided to paint him Annie Sloan’s Emperor’s Silk, a red with an Asian sensibility, and add gold foil. The original Great Buddha of Kamakura once dazzled worshippers with his gold leaf covering. No longer. But there’s still a hint of gold on his right cheek.

A team of researchers from Tokyo University and CAD Center received permission in 2000 to create a virtual reality model of the Great Buddha in the Main Hall. It’s amazing.

Imagine approaching that original temple and catching sight of the magnificent Buddha gleaming inside:

Main Hall and Great Buddha 3D

Great Buddha 3D Gold

Step into the temple and have the breath knocked out of you. Virtual reality is amazing because it integrates geometric and photometric models with environmental scenes. The result is a hologram that offers an intimate sense of the original shrine and Buddha’s golden glory.

Here is my Buddha after a coat of Emperor’s Silk. Clearly, I have not yet achieved my vision. A couple more coats followed.

Great Buddha First Coat of Red

I pulled out my Artisan Enhancements’ gold foil next. After brushing on the liquid Size I waited about 30 minutes and  carefully applied the foil. Now, foil can be tricky because it’s like a finicky cat. You never know how it’s going to settle. I hoped for a strong contrast of the red and gold, and that’s what I got. I waited 24 hours and brushed Clear Finish over the very patient Buddha.

Buddha Gold Foil

His supreme dignity intact, he may continue his meditations uninterrupted.

Here’s one final photo from my trip to Kamakura:

Great Buddha of Kamakura 2

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Ann Marie and David

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6 Comments on Great Buddha of Kamakura

  1. Apple Pie at
    January 9, 2015 at 3:33 am (6 years ago)

    This is so awesome. I love anything Asian after living in Japan for a year and a half. We actually just visited a great site with a Buddha in Arizona. You can see it on my blog @ Thanks!

    • irisabbey
      January 9, 2015 at 4:08 am (6 years ago)

      Hi, Apple Pie. Thanks for stopping by. I had to go to your site to see this Buddha in Arizona and I read about your spiritual excursions. Just marvelous.

  2. Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces
    January 16, 2015 at 3:41 pm (6 years ago)

    My father was in the military and we lived in Japan for 3-1/2 years when I was a child. This post brought back memories of visiting the Great Buddha…I hadn’t thought of that in a long time…
    You did a lovely job with the paint re-do!

    • irisabbey
      January 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm (6 years ago)

      I felt the same as you did. I had forgotten about seeing The Great Buddha but this stature and my photos brought back memories — and that’s lovely.

  3. Don Schmid
    January 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm (4 years ago)

    I purchased the same replica in Kamakura in 1967. It got “lost” in a move and have searched the internet for hours trying to find an exact copy. They were available and fairly common in 1967 but my searching has been unsuccessful. It was inspiring to see the Kamakura Daibutsu replica again. Thank you.

    Don Schmid

    • irisabbey
      January 25, 2017 at 3:06 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks for your kind words, Don. You’ve got your work cut out for you, but I wish you luck.


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