The Ryozen Kannon memorial stands in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, near a cluster of well-known temples (including Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji).
Kannon (Avalokiteśvara), the Bodhisattva of mercy, is sometimes portrayed as male in Japan, but the statue at the Ryozen Kannon memorial is female. Made of concrete and steel, the seated image rises 80 feet high and weighs around 500 tons.
The memorial opened on June 8, 1955, and exists to honor the unknown soldiers who died in the Pacific War (World War II). The memorial is also home to memorial tablets for over 2 million Japanese people who died during World War II.
In return for a small entry fee (about $3), visitors can enter the memorial and place a stick of incense in the burner on behalf of the unknown soldiers.
Within the hall beneath Kannon, Buddhist priests hold services four times a day on behalf of everyone – known and unknown – who perished in the Pacific war.
If you visit Higashiyama, be sure to include a stop at the Ryozen Kannon (and, for those who collect goshuin, remember to have your book stamped inside the hall).
Regardless of your faith, the statue is a lovely example of Buddhist art, and definitely worth the visit.