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Wednesday, 16th July 2014
In Events In Japan,

Todai-ji Temple statues to be repaired

The two imposing statues that flank the awe-inspiring Todai-ji temple in Nara are to undergo repair work that will see them fully restored to their former glory - 800 years after they were first carved and tasked with watching over the sacred place.

Known as Kongo Rikishi guardian deities, the pair were created during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333) by Unkei and Kaikei, leading sculptors of Buddhist statues at the time. They stand at over eight metres tall, snarling down at visitors from either side of the Nandaimon Gate.

On the left, the statue with its mouth open represents the beginning of all things in Buddhism, while the figure with its mouth closed symbolises the end. Together, they represent two fundamental Buddhist views of the universe.

The repair work will be the first conducted on the statues since the entire temple underwent a full restoration between 1988 and 1993.

Todai-ji, a prime attraction of Nara, was founded when the city was first made the ancient capital of Japan. It was hoped that construction of the temple would help bring peace to the nation.

More recently, tourists have flocked through the gates past the two guardian statues in order to visit the 15-metre-high bronze-plated Buddha statue, which is one of the world's largest wooden structures.

It's also worth trying to see if you can fit through the pillar with a hole in its base, said to be the same size as the nostril of the giant Buddha. Those who can do so will reportedly be granted enlightenment in the next life.

Nara is an easy journey from both Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. Local services from each city run trains, meaning it is not necessary to reserve a seat as one would have to do on the Shinkansen bullet train.

Written by Mark Smith


Related news stories:
Viability of Buddhist temples 'in doubt' (3rd September 2008)