Like any city with an ancient past, Kyoto is built on its own ruins. Layers of history remain hidden under the modern streets and houses, with many of the most famous structures lost in fires and earthquakes. Locals have their own ideas about what long-lost piece of the city’s architectural history they would wish to be magically restored. Some might pine over the loss of the Jurakudai palace, glittering with elaborate golden decorations and numerous halls of untold opulence. Others may long for a restoration of Honnoji, the temple where (in)famous warlord Nobunaga met his fiery and mysterious death.
However, nothing looms as large over the city’s lost history as the Daibutsu, a massive Buddhist statue that was once the crowning artistic and religious centerpiece of Kyoto. The fact that this grand piece of culture has been lost to time without a trace left behind (almost) is both astonishing and tragic. The story of its construction, destruction, and legacy is just as fascinating today as the statue itself must have been to the first visitors in the 1600s.