Stolen Buddhist Statue Returned to Nara Prefecture Temple via Online Auction Bidder

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kyosho Kawanaka, left, chief priest of Nenbutsu-in, receives the stolen Buddhist statue from Ryota Hoki in Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, on Saturday.

NARA — A retuning ceremony was held on Saturday for a Buddha statue that had been stolen from a temple in Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, after it was handed in by a man who had bought it in an online auction.

Ryota Hoki, 52, a company president in Tokyo, returned the statue of a seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha) to Nenbutsu-in, one of inner temples of the Taima-dera temple complex.

The ceremony was held in Okuno-in, Taima-dera’s major inner temple precinct.

The statue was stolen by a man who broke into Nenbutsu-in sometime between August and September last year. It was found later that the statue was brought into a shop in Osaka Prefecture and was put up for auction.

The Osaka prefectural police arrested the man and explained the situation to Hoki.

He handed over the statue to Kyosho Kawanaka, chief priest of Nenbutsu-in at the ceremony. Hoki, whose hobby is collecting Buddhist statues, said, “I feel a little regrettable, because it is a beautiful Buddhist statue. But I feel satisfied that it’s returning to the temple which it belongs to.”

The city’s history museum recording photos of the statue and other data in a database contributed to the artifact’s discovery and arrest of the man.

Kawanaka said, “I feel nothing but gratitude, because many people’s cooperation helped the statue come back safely. I hope it can be a lesson for the future that recording detailed data could protect such a cultural asset.”