The Hill of the Buddha by Tadao Ando

In Sapporo, Japan’s northernmost city, architect Tadao Ando built a stunning temple that opened in December 2015. This site is known as “The Hill of the Buddha” (Buddha no Oka), named after an ancient stone receptacle for cremated remains that serves as its centerpiece. After long negotiations with the prefectural government, Ando acquired four hectares (nearly 10 acres) of mostly wooded land in the hills surrounding this site.

The Hill of the Buddha is circular in form, open to all comers, and with unrestrained views in every direction. The temple is entirely underground, with the exception of the giant Buddha head that may be seen from the exterior. The massive statue on top of the hill encourages visitors to meditate and relax.

The wall’s semicircular opening creates a symbolic portal through which one enters into this realm of contemplation. Here it is possible to experience directly the earth in all its stillness and fertility that lies beneath the summer greenery.

Hill of Buddha
Tadao Ando’s original sketch

“The aim of this project was to build a prayer hall that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha sculpted 15 years ago. The site is a gently sloping hill on 180 hectares of lush land belonging to a cemetery. The statue is 13.5 meters tall and weighs 1500 tons. It is made of fine, highly selected solid stone. Until now, the Buddha statue has stood alone in the field, giving an unrestful impression. The client wanted to give visitors a more serene appreciation of the Buddha.” He explains.

The most astonishing about Hill of the Buddha is its emptiness, serenity, and simplicity. Of course, it is traversed constantly by monks from its neighbor temple Kichijo-ji, who view it as their sacred duty to walk the earth seeking anything out of place or dirty; therefore each day they diligently cleanse this work with high tech equipment (even raking up fallen leaves by vacuuming them up, a process which you can view through live camera feed) and keep it free of litter. Other than the monks, only picnickers and small groups of school children visit this place on weekends or days off from school. There is no restaurant or gift shop to attract tourists; there are no billboards or advertisements. The space envelops you in its serenity, making one feel as though they’ve left Japan behind entirely.

More info: Tadao Ando

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