Japan’s Large Buddhist Statue in Sendai Now a Lovely Pink

Japan’s Large Buddhist Statue in Sendai Now a Lovely Pink

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Daikannon in Sendai
Picture: HANA / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
It used to be the tallest statue in Japan and is still a major tourist attraction. But why is the Sendai Daikannon sporting a shade of pink?

A beloved Sendai tourist landmark has had a sudden change of color. Why is the Sendai Daikannon, which anchors the west side of Sendai’s skyline, now pink?


The Sendai Daikannon– in full, official name, Sendai Tendō Byakue Kannon– is one of Sendai’s most visible landmarks. Completed in 1991, it stands 100 meters, or 330 feet tall, in Sendai’s northerly Izumi ward, at the foot of the Ōu Mountains.

It was, for a time, the tallest freestanding statue in the world. Some on the Japanese language side of the internet joke that it has the air of the “last boss” of a video game, in how it towers over the city.

Ibaraki Prefecture‘s Ushiku Daibutsu surpassed the Sendai Daikannon in size in 1993. Despite being surpassed, the Daikannon remains Japan’s second-tallest Buddhist statue and the 5th tallest statue of any kind in the world. Far from simply a tourist attraction, it is also part of an active Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect, called Daikanmitsuji.

Also on the grounds is Aburagake Daikokuten, a small temple devoted to the deity Daikokuten. Inside the statue are displayed smaller examples of Buddhist statuary along multiple levels descending to the ground floor.

When I lived in Sendai, the Daikannon was one of my most reliable landmarks. By virtue of its size, I could see it from almost anywhere. If it was on my right, I was looking roughly south. If it was on my left, I was looking roughly north. Even from the foot of Date Masamune’s equestrian statue on Mount Aoba– a landmark we’ve covered in a prior article— I could see it, looking east to the sunrise. She holds one hand up in a mudra and a wish-fulfilling jewel in the other hand.

Sendai Daikannon as photographed from Mount Aoba by the author on 30 September 2005.

But now, in an interesting development, the statue is pink. Why?


Conservation in Progress

Sendai Daikannon
Picture: bee / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

The color change is, apparently, not permanent. Conservation efforts on the statue have been underway since April of this year. In order to preserve the statue’s brilliant white, a base layer of pink coating has been applied first in order to ensure that a newly applied white paint coat lasts.

The restoration team says that if they had simply repainted white over white, it would result in visible errors and imperfections in the final product. By scraping and sanding and then applying the new base layer, the final layer can sit more evenly and better shine. The statue’s outer structure and original paint had badly weathered and cracked, and it had as yet not been maintained since its unveiling.

In order to save money and shorten the time necessary to complete the work, the project is not using scaffolding. Workers in climbing gear, suspended from ropes, are seeing to the operation.

Each carries equipment weighing approximately 30 kilograms (66 pounds). They’ve scraped flaking paint and smoothed out weathering and cracks, before applying the pink base layer. Application of the final white paint will begin in mid-October.

A monk at the temple remarked, “I’d rather that it wasn’t pink, but it might be more charming this way. It seems to be loved by everyone in this state.”


The Sendai Daikannon’s conservation continues as of this writing, and it is still partly pink. It will return to its original white color when the project concludes as of late November.

Buddhism teaches a doctrine of transience and mutability (shogyō mujō). Though they may flourish now, all things will eventually pass, and even the pink-faced Kannon will likewise pass. So if you’re in Sendai right now, consider stopping by to appreciate it in this state. We hope that whatever its color, the Daikannon will continue in the pink of health for many years to come.


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Nyri Bakkalian

Dr. Nyri A. Bakkalian is an author, recovering academic, raconteur, and Your Favorite History Lesbian. Her PhD thesis focused on the Boshin War in the Tohoku region. She is the author of "Grey Dawn: A Tale of Abolition and Union" (Balance of Seven Press, 2020). She hosts Friday Night History on anchor.fm/fridaynighthistory and the secret to her success is Arabic coffee. She misses Sendai daily.

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