Photo/Illutration The face of the Great Buddha as seen through the "Kanso-mado" window at Todaiji temple in Nara on April 24 (Jin Nishioka)

NARA--Nara's fabulous Todaiji temple, home to one of the world's largest Buddha statues, is suspending entry to the Great Buddha Hall while the new coronavirus rages.

But the temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, keeps a front window open to allow worshipers a peek at the face of the enormous statue inside.

The temple's Chumon gate usually remains closed. But it was opened at 8:30 a.m. on April 24 so worshipers can offer prayers at the fence set up beyond the gate, although they are not permitted to enter the hall.

Under normal circumstances, the "Kanso-mado" window is only open on New Year's Day, during the midsummer “obon” season and a few other occasions.

The temple will continue to allow visitors to sneak a peek at the Great Buddha until May 31.

"I realized again how precious our normal lives had been," said Yoko Awatani, 51, a homemaker who lives in Nara city and visits the temple every morning. "I pray everything will return to normal for Nara, with Todaiji filled with its bustling atmosphere."

Temple officials had been considering ways to receive worshipers after a state of emergency covering Tokyo and six prefectures was declared on April 7.

Usually, at this time of the year, the number of visitors to the temple amounts to several thousand a day. Now, only a few dozen visit.

"The best way for us to prevent the spread of infection is to close the temple, but there are many people who are feeling anxious these days," said Kojo Morimoto, a temple steward in charge of general affairs. "We have been discussing ways to offer people an opportunity to pray to the Great Buddha as a source of spiritual comfort in these difficult times."