enku buddha 円空仏 (1632-1695)

My first encounter with Enkuu’s Buddha statues was in Takayama
City, Gifu Precture. I was immediately attracted by the distinctive qualities of these wood-carved statues, especially their subtle, enchanting smiles. They also had a natural feel to them, the unpainted wood clearly showing the knots, chips and chisels.

Enkuu was a Buddhist monk who widely travelled Japan helping the poor and vulnerable along the way. It is said that he carved upwards of 120,000 statues, called Enkuu’s Buddhas, and many were made from the wood of the forest he would visit as he traveled. In fact, he often gave these Buddhas to local people he would meet to comfort them in times of distress.

The statue shown here was found in a temple’s old shrine, Aichi Prefecture, in 2002.