Nishimura Kocho Nishimura



Buddhist Sculptors Gallery


Nishimura Kocho
Nishimura Koochoo 西村公朝 (にしむらこうちょう)

© www.otagiji.org

Nishimura Kocho was a carver of Buddha statues and restaurateur of old statues.
I have seen him many times on TV and cherish some videos and many books he wrote on the subject of appreciating Buddhist statues.

He even gave me some good advise when I was writing my own books about Buddha Statues.

Born June 4, 1915 in Osaka, he studied art at the Tokyo University of Arts.

After WW2, where he spent some time in China, he began his lifework as restaurateur of the 1000 statues of Kannon Bosatsu and many others in the famous temple Sanjusan Gendo 三十三間堂 in Kyoto.

I remember him showing a small golden jewel 如意宝珠, which he had prepared himself, by filtering the dust of the temple and his workshop every evening, checking carefully for even the tiniest piece of gold dust from the old statues. When the restauration was completed, he used this "essence" of the hall and the statues to make his own treasure.

He was a teacher of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and of Hieizan University of the Tendai Sect.
At the age of 37 he even became a full ordained priest of the Tendai sect, apart from being a master carver, busshi 仏師, and restaurateur, 仏像修理技師.

In 1955 he was appointed head priest at the temple Otagi-Ji 愛宕念仏寺 (Otagi Nenbutsu Ji) in Kyoto, a rather worn-down place when he took over. I visited Otagi-Ji many years later ... what a change! He had made it his job to invite laypeople, show them how to carve simple stone statues and then put these "1200 Arhat" statues all over the temple grounds, high up on the slopes.


A Kannon To Touch, FureAI Kannon 「ふれ愛観音」

Since most Buddha statues are in temples or museums, you are not supposed to touch them. But for blind people, there is no way to SEE what they are. So Nishimura sensei carved a Kannon Statue and put in up in his temple, where anybody can come and touch it. This became so popular, that within a few years many other temples put up this kind of "toucheable Kannon". In Japanese, there is a play with the writing of this, AI being the Chinese character for LOVE  .

In 1986, he received the honorable title Great Buddha Statues Carver Hooin, "Tendai Daibusshi Hooin" 天台大仏師法印.
This is the highest rank given to a master carver and had not been bestowed to a carver for quite a long time before him.

CLICK for more photos !


This is one of the books that came with an NHK programm about making and painting Buddha statues in an easy way.
"If you make a statue with all your heart, it will be your Buddha,whatever it looks like!" he used to encourage the students.

Click here to see some of his goods with simple Buddha statues !

He died on December 2, 2003, at the age of 89 years.
平成15年12月2日 遷化 享年89歳


A Tourist Guidebook to Paradise  
GokuRaku no Kankoo Annai 極楽の観光案内

Since my own home is called "Paradise Hermitage", GokuRakuAn, this book of Nishimura Sensei is of great importance to me. It introduces the Buddhist aspects of Paradise in its various forms.


Butsuzoo no Inori
Prayer of Buddhist Statues

A set of 11 DVD about Buddhist Statues

CLICK for original LINK !


CLICK for more photos !CLICK for more photos !

Otagi Nenbutsu Temple 愛宕念仏寺
Detailed Biography in Japanese

With many many photos !
Koutyo Nishimura 1915.6.4-2003.12.2

NHK 仏像の種類

Other Japanese Reference

Mark Schumacher about ARAKAN / RAKAN
Look at more PHOTOS !

Gabi Greve
Buddhastatuen (Buddha statues) Who is Who
Ein Wegweiser zur Ikonografie von japanischen Buddhastatuen


The son of Nishimura Kocho is now head priest at the Otagi Temple.
Koei (Nishimura Kooei 西村公栄 (にしむら こうえい)is also a great musician.

CLICK for more records !

This is my favorite CD of Koei Sensei. The painting, by Kocho Sensei, is also used on a mug cup sold at the temple, which I use for my daily tea.

The inscription reads :
How good to be born in this world!


My favorite Fudo Myo-O statue

生木に彫られています carved into a living tree
1日で彫られました carved in one day
百年後にどうなるのか? How will it look in 100 years ?
- source : shigeru.kommy.com

. . . CLICK here for Photos !

. Fudō Myō-ō, Fudoo Myoo-Oo 不動明王 Fudo Myo-O
Acala Vidyârâja - Vidyaraja .

with more details of Kocho Sensei and his Fudo Myo-O
. tachikibutsu 立木仏 Buddhas in living trees .


My small tribute to Nishimura Sensei

思いのまま 宝をくれる 仏かな

summer dreams -
ask this Buddha and
you shall receive

Daruma Pilgrims in Japan


Not to mix up :

Atagoyama 愛宕山 [あたごやま] is the highest mountain in the Kyoto area.

Atago and Otagi designated two old cemeteries on opposite sides of Kyoto.
The phonetic similarity of their names has often caused confusion.
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is now located in the foot of the approach to MountAtago, in the the northwest of Kyoto.



Who made Buddha Statues ?
Mark Schumacher

Buddhist Sculptors Gallery

Daruma Pilgrims in Japan



Anonymous said...



Otagi Nenbutsu-ji

Arashiyama is one of Kyoto’s most beautiful neighbourhoods, and hundreds of thousands of tourists visit there every year, but unfortunately, almost no one ever makes it to the area’s most interesting temple.

It’s called Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, and it has some of the funniest, most fascinating and beautiful Buddhist sculptures in the entire country.

Originally founded by Emperor Shotoku in the middle of the eighth century, this temple has had some seriously bad luck. It was first built in the Higashidera area of Kyoto, but was destroyed by a flood of the Kamo River, and was rebuilt as a branch of Enryaku-ji, the famous Tendai sect temple on Mt. Hiei. Its main hall was burned to the during a civil war in the thirteenth century, and after moving to its present location in 1922, it suffered severe damage in a typhoon.

From the road, Otagi Nenbustu-ji looks like a very ordinary temple, but after passing through the gate, with its two typically terrifying Nio statues (the fierce looking guardians one often finds at the entrance to temples), you will notice two more Nio, and these definitely tend toward the cute, rather than the ferocious end of the spectrum.

These kawaii guardians are just the beginning though, and there are more than 1200 statues on the temple’s grounds. Walking up the path to the main hall, there are dozen or so strange little faces peering down at you, most of them half-hidden in the tall grass.

Although they will give you some hint of the strangeness you are about to encounter, most visitors are still shocked when they see the hundreds of bizarre figures carved in grey stone by the main hall of the temple.

These statues are called rakan, and they represent the 500 disciples of Buddha. Although many Buddhist sculptures are carved to represent exquisite beauty or terrifying ferociousness, rakan almost always seem to be carved in the spirit of humour and good fun.

There are also Rakan-ji temples in Otaru (Hokkaido) and Oita (Kyushu) with carvings every bit as bizarre as those at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, but the statues here are special because most of them were made by amateur carvers.

In 1981, when the 1950 typhoon damage was finally repaired, worshippers at the temple decided to donate rakan sculptures to the temple in honour of its refurbishing. A famous sculptor, Kocho Nishimura taught hundreds of sculptors, amateur and professional alike how to carve statues from stone, and the result is a delightful mix of serene and scary, somber and silly.

Spend a few hours there and see if you can find the surfing Buddha, the two tipplers, the saxophone player, the photographer and the disciple doing a handstand. Since the installation of the Rakan, a custom has evolved among visitors to the temple of trying to find a statue that resembles your own face.

It can be fun, but you may be in for a shock if you go with someone else and are suddenly told that the buck-toothed, bowl cut-sporting statue with a nose the size of a potato looks a lot like you.

The temple must be one of the mossiest, most eroded places in Kansai, and walking its grounds, one has the distinct impression that man is fighting a losing battle with nature here. All in all it’s a very mysterious place, always a little dark and always the moss on the statues and the way they are being eroded just adds to the atmosphere.

Getting There:
From Kyoto station, take bus 72 to Otagidera Mae (愛宕寺前). From Hankyu Arashiyama station, take bus 62 or 72 to Otagidera Mae. If you know Arashiyama, go to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji and follow the walking path north. You'll come to Otagi in about 10 minutes.

Anonymous said...



1940年、彫刻科を卒業。中学で美術を半年教えた後、翌年に26歳で美術院国宝修理所へ就職。 そして、4年前(1937年)から始まっていた京都・三十三間堂の千体千手観音像の仏像修理(毎年50体を修理する大事業)に加わった矢先、1942年(27歳)、召集令状を受け取り中国へ出征する。
























wabisabi said...


The Buddha . .
of rock 'n' roll -
returns no treasure.

Rebuilding Bamiyan . . .

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Fudo Myo-O

Carved by Nishimura Kocho in 1975, Kyoto, Zengan-Ji 善願寺
in a keya tree (Torreya nucifera)

京都 醍醐 善願寺の 榧の木不動.

Gabi Greve said...

Decades-long restoration of ancient 1,000 Kannon statues nearing completion

KYOTO--Restoration work on the famed 1,000 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, at Sanjusangendo temple is nearly 90 percent complete after an effort that began in the 1930s.

Eleven of the statues were returned to the temple in the city’s Higashiyama Ward on March 31 after undergoing repair work in fiscal 2014.

Sanjusangendo temple and its sitting Senju Kannon Zazo statue, its primary effigy, are designated national treasures. The 1,000 thousand-armed Sentai Senju Kannonryu-zo statues that stand around Senju Kannon Zazo are recognized as national important cultural properties.

Initial repair work on the 1,000 statues and a statue behind Senju Kannon Zazo started in fiscal 1936 and lasted through fiscal 1956. Under the process, 50 statues were dismantled and reassembled each year.

From 1973, more detailed restoration was carried out by a group of craftsmen in Bijyutsuin Kokuho Shurijo workshop, in Kyoto’s Shimogyo Ward. They removed dust and conducted other work.

Restoration work on 898 of the Kannon figures is complete. The repair work on the 103 remaining statues will start sometime around June after renovations are completed on the studio where they will be repaired.

Other than the 1,001 Kannon statues, five of which are on extended loan to the national museums in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara, the temple is also home to the Fujin Raijin-zo (god of wind and god of thunder statues) as well as the Nijuhachibushu-zo (28 god statues). Fujin Raijin-zo and Nijuhachibushu-zo are collectively designated a national treasure.

Gabi Greve said...

Legends about Sanjusangendo 三十三間堂 Hall with 33 Spaces