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Wakayama: Buddha’s Head Statue Draws Prayers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A 3-meter-tall statue of Buddha’s head enshrined on a stone pedestal is seen at Muryokoji Temple in Wakayama.

WAKAYAMA — A large statue of Buddha’s head at Muryokoji Temple in Wakayama is proving a hit with people who are praying for recovery from illness or success in their schoolwork as the statue is believed to grant wishes related to one’s head.

The 3-meter-tall head is the statue’s second incarnation. The first is said to have been a seated statue with both a head and body. It was built around 1730 at a place later called Daifukuji Temple, which is located about 2.5 kilometers from Muryokoji, but it was destroyed in a fire. Parishioners rebuilt the statue using copper from the melted Buddha in hopes of creating a statue similar to the 11-meter-tall Great Buddha of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture.

However, reconstruction work was suspended partly due to economic reasons after the head was completed, and the consecration ceremony for the statue was held in 1840. Daifukuji then became defunct because of damage caused by a major earthquake.

The head was moved in 1908 to Muryokoji, the head temple for Daifukuji.

“The Buddha statue is supposed to be something that people look up at, but since the statue has no body, it has the same perspective as humans,” said the chief priest of Muryokoji. “The imperfect figure resembles humans in its shortcomings.”