Senju-ji, the head temple of the Takada school of Shin Buddhism, has launched a brand-new, immersive experience that offers visitors a 360-degree CGI imagining of the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha (Jp: Amida Butsu, Amida Nyorai).
The 15th century Buddhist temple in Japan’s Mie Prefecture has built a high-tech hexagonal theater fitted with six screens, each measuring four by six meters, for audiences of up to 40 people.
“We hope it will serve as a starting point for people to become interested in the world of Buddhism and visit the temple,” Chiryo Fujitani, who handles general affairs at Senju-ji, was quoted as saying by The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
The Rokkakudo hall that houses the theater is still under construction as an annex to Senju-ji’s Homotsukan treasure repository, which is itself undergoing renovation work. The 360-degree theater and other sections of the Rokkakudo hall’s interior have been completed in advanced of a planned event in May that will commemorate the 850th birth anniversary of the renowned monk and teacher Shinran Shonin (1173–1263), the founder of the Jodo Shinshu school of Pure Land Buddhism.
Two programs are being shown at the 360-degree theater: Ojodo, which presents a visual imagining of the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, and Senjuji360, an immersive exploration of Senju-ji’s Edo-period architecture, and the Buddhist murals, sculptures, and other treasures housed within. Senjuji360 includes drone footage of the temple’s Nyoraido and Mieido halls, both of which are designated national treasures by the Japanese government.
“The architectural beauty found throughout the huge buildings of the Miei-do and Nyorai-do, as well as the beauty of the murals and sculptures inside and outside the buildings, represent the world of the Pure Land of Amida Nyorai,” Senju-ji stated. “These architectures and ornaments are masterpieces of Edo Period craftsmanship. Many of these details are usually inaccessible due to the sheer size of the buildings or for religious reasons. This time, the latest digital technology including 3D measurement and 360-degree camera imaging has made it possible to see them as if they were in your hand.” (Senjuji)
The temple went on to describe its aspirations for the depiction of Amitabha’s Pure Land in Ojodo, noting: “According to the teachings of Jodo Shinshu, we will be born into the Pure Land after death. Since the founding of the Jodo Shinshu sect, the gorgeous architecture of the Miei-do and Nyorai-do, the beauty of the decorations, the beautiful sounds of gagaku (traditional Japanese court music), and the fragrance of incense have been used to convey this teaching, so that visitors can feel what the Pure Land is like with all five senses. In this program, we will present a modern interpretation of the Pure Land in a virtual space, utilizing the latest video technology by contemporary creators.” (Senjuji)
Admission to the 360-degree theater is free during the pre-opening period until 16 February. The site will then be closed until 21 May for exterior work, prior to the reopening of the Homotsukan treasure repository.
Jodo Shinshu, also known as Shin Buddhism or True Pure Land Buddhism, is the most widely practiced branch of Buddhism in Japan. Senju-ji is the head temple of the Takada school of Shin Buddhism, which has more 600 temples nationwide.
Buddhist sect offers immersive CGI imagery of the Pure Land (The Asahi Shimbun)
Pre-opening event of 360-degree immersive digital movie theater of the New Treasure Museum (Senjuji)
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