Visitors enjoy the scenery of Kyoto from the balcony on the main hall of Kiyomizudera temple in the city. (Hisanori Kanaya)

KYOTO--Scaffolding will cover the main hall of Kiyomizudera temple here as early as next spring, marring picturesque views of the World Heritage site as it undergoes its most extensive repair work in four centuries.

However, during the work, which is expected to be completed by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, visitors will still be able to worship in the main hall.

The temple will also keep the Buddhist statues at the same places and offer Buddhist memorial services and other rituals as usual.

Visitors, including students on school trips, will be able to view the scenery of Kyoto from the hall’s balcony through spaces made between pillars of the scaffolding.

Kiyomizudera, which receives about 5.5 million visitors a year, was built in the latter half of the eighth century. Its main hall was reconstructed in 1633 after it was destroyed in a fire.

That was the last time such huge repairs have been made at the temple.

The current project, which started in fiscal 2008, is aimed at fixing nine of the 16 buildings designated as national treasures or important cultural properties.

The entire project is expected to cost 4 billion yen (about $36 million), of which 55 percent will be covered by central government subsidies.

Repairs are almost complete for seven of the buildings. The remaining two that still need work are the main hall and Shakado (Buddha hall).

The temple will start to build the scaffolding, called “suyane,” around January, and the hall will be completely covered around the start of spring, according to temple officials.

The temple will use new cypress bark shingles to replace the old ones on the hall’s roof from next spring, and the walls will be repainted.

The balcony portion that protrudes from the main hall is 22 meters wide, 9 meters long and 12 meters above the ground.

It was repaired in the middle of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and after it was damaged in a typhoon in 1950. The main hall also underwent repair work from 1964 to 1967.