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Tuesday, 12th August 2014
In Events In Japan,

Giant Buddha statue undergoes cleaning

Visitors to Todaiji Temple in Nara today (August 7th) were treated to an even more amazing spectacle than usual, as proceedings were carried out to clean the giant Buddha statue in preparation for the Obon festival.

The structure attracts tourists from all across the globe - standing at more than 15 metres high and positively towering over everything in the splendid temple, it is for many the highlight of their trip to Japan.

Every year on August 7th, priests employ a special ritual to temporarily remove the Buddha's soul so that the statue itself may undergo cleaning, just in time for Japan's annual Obon festival when people pay tribute to their ancestors.

With the soul safely contained, around 150 priests and workers climb onto its enormous hands, knees and head to dust and polish in the old fashioned way. Others are raised in baskets so that they can tackle the shoulders and torso, suspended from the ceiling of the extraordinary hall.

Afterwards, Buddha's soul is safely returned in time for the festivities to begin. Obon, or Japan's Festival of the Dead, is an important time of year, and many people travel to pay their respects to their ancestors.

The extravaganza has been part of the Japanese holiday calendar for more than 500 years and there are many individual celebrations to indulge in if you're lucky enough to be in Japan during this time.

For example, after you've witnessed Nara's giant Buddha at Todaiji Temple, why not head over to nearby Kyoto - only around an hour away by the local train service - where you can enjoy the spectacle of watching the giant Kanji symbols carved into the mountains illuminated by night?

However, it's worth remembering that many locals travel during Obon to be with their families, and public transport is likely to be busy. Be sure to book everything with plenty of time in advance.

Related news stories:
Giant squid spotted off Japan's coastline (29th December 2015)
Obon: What's it all about? (13th August 2014)
Enjoy a fireworks festival in Japan this summer (22nd July 2014)
Giant lantern festival to be held in Japan (17th August 2010)