Gifu Shouhouji Daibutsu is not a compact car in competition with Daihatsu. Actually, it’s a lot bigger than a Hummer and one of three Great Buddhas in Japan. The other two are in Nara and Kamakura. .
Sam is scheduled for knee surgery the day after I leave Japan and had to go to the hospital for blood-work and pre-admission paperwork. All doctor’s waiting rooms look the same, and Japan’s are no exception, so while he was busy doing his busy work his parents-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Oba, took me to visit the Buddha, located at the base of Gifu castle in Gifu City.
It was created using a central pillar of Ginkgo wood, six feet in circumference. The framework was then constructed from a latticework of various woods and his body knitted together using many types of material. The surface was then hardened with clay and covered with sheets of Buddhist scripture. Later it was covered with multiple layers of lacquer and gold leaf. The priest in charge of the project, Ichyuu, had a struggle obtaining enough scripture pages and ended up traveling throughout Japan asking for contributions. He spent 25 years working on the Buddha and died in 1815, his project still uncompleted.
Out of respect his successor, the 12th generation head priest, Kohshuu, completed the project 13 years later, taking a total of 38 years to complete.
Height–44.2 feet (13.63 m)
Length of face- 11.91 feet (3.63 m)
Length of ears–6.96 feet (1.31 m)
After our visit we sipped coffee at a small shop across the street. Our only conversation: Japanese on the Oba’s end and English on mine. We don’t know each other very well, but the silence was pleasant enough and when a small infant is present it always becomes the focal point, a bit like a silent TV in a room, but more interesting.
Then it was back to the hospital to pick up Sam and Yuka.
Hospital waiting rooms seem to be universally depressing places. This one was no exception, except the television screens were larger and more plentiful than other hospitals I’ve been in. But then we *are* where Sony and Panasonic originated. We waited and waited and waited for Sam to get finished, and in that time Michael Phelps won yet another gold medal. It has been nice to be in Japan during the Olympics. I get tired of US coverage of the games–we seem to focus only on our participants. Here I have seen mostly Japanese athletes and consequently a lot of Judo and kickboxing.
Lunch today was Unagi– eel. For those of you who have never eaten eel, do so the moment it’s offered to you. Wonderful stuff. This particular restaurant makes their eel a bit crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. A sweet thick sauce, similar to hoisin accompanied the eel and it all lay happily on a bed of rice. I’m not sure how to describe the taste of eel. It’s not fishy but it’s not meaty either. Hmmm… maybe a little like very fresh tuna– try it when you get a chance.
Sam teaches English in the Japanese school system in Godo and also does private lessons on the side. That night I went back to the hospital with him where he is tutoring four pulmonary physicians. I enjoyed an hour with them, talking about why they want to learn English (so they can converse with other docs at international medical symposiums), what they will be doing with their vacations(one is going to La Paz, Mexico; one is going to the northern islands of Japan; one is staying home), and generally chatting about this and that. I told them the story of my lost wallet in Narita Airport and they were all impressed that I got it back. I assured the gentleman going to La Paz, Mexico that it would never, never happen there. Never. One of the docs was quite fluent and the other three were game to learn.
Tomorrow we are going to Tanigumi, my favorite temple!