A Turtle Temple In Nagasaki Holds The Ashes of 16,000 WWII Dead

The current Fukusai-ji Temple in Nagasaki, reconstructed after the original was destroyed by the atomic bomb, is built of modern materials but its giant Bodhisattva and turtle-shaped architecture harken back to ancient mythology.


Since 1628 a Fukusai-ji Temple has stood in Nagasaki, Japan, although not always in its current incarnation. The old temple was unfortunately obliterated when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city in 1945, but it was not long (relatively) before a new temple was built on the site in 1976. It is this iconic new temple that stands today.

From the outside, the most striking features include a massive 60-foot statue of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the building itself on which Kannon stands which is shaped like a giant turtle. Both the Kannon figure and the giant tortoise head poking out above the door are made of shining aluminium, giving the site a thoroughly modern look despite its history.

The interior of the temple has also been changed. In addition to its purpose as a zen temple, it is also a memorial and burial site for the remains of over 16,000 casualties of World War II. Swinging above the remains is one of the largest Foucault's Pendulums in the world, hanging all the way down from the interior of the Kannon figure and spinning its weighted end.

Not even an atomic bomb could stop the Fukusai-ji Temple, simply made it more interesting and vital.


Image Credits: Sébastien Bertrand, Wikipedia

Written by Eric Grundhauser, this is a slightly modified version of an article that originally ran on Atlas Obscura, the leading guide to the wondrous and curious places across the earth. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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