Photo/IllutrationA Buddha statue containing the ashes of about 223,000 people is unveiled at Isshinji temple in Osaka on May 31. (Hikaru Uchida)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA--A Buddha statue containing the ashes of a record-high 223,202 people was unveiled at Isshinji temple here, the first such Kotsubutsu (bone Buddha) created in 10 years.

The temple has a tradition dating back to 1887 of using human remains deposited in its care to make images of Amitabha Buddha.

The latest one is the 14th Kotsubutsu, and it contains the ashes of people laid to rest at the temple during the decade through 2016.

At a consecration ceremony held May 31 to put the spirit into the statue, Kyoten Takaguchi, Isshinji’s head priest, recited sutras in front of the 2.5-meter-tall Kotsubutsu. The 250 or so temple patrons and other followers then joined their hands in prayer.

The bone Buddhas have each been produced at 10-year intervals. They were made from human ashes that were pulverized and mixed with water and cement.

The temple has accepted the ashes of people regardless of their denomination. More than 2 million people both in Japan and abroad have been turned into bone Buddhas.

Those with ancestral graves that are too distant to visit or those without younger relatives who can continue to take care of such graves typically come to the temple to deposit ashes of the dead, temple officials said.

“Somebody would be praying for you if you were to become part of a bone Buddha,” Takaguchi, 48, said. “I think more people will want to have that sense of relief in the coming years because that way, they would not be left unattended.”

The latest statue contains the ashes of more people than the statue made in the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the remains of many war dead were laid to rest with the temple.

The number is up nearly 40 percent from 2007, when the Buddha statue contained the ashes of slightly more than 160,000 people.

The first six bone Buddhas were burned down during the Great Osaka Air Raid of 1945, but the seven others remain to this day.

The latest statue will be on display in front of the temple’s main hall through the end of June. Temple officials expect around 400,000 visitors to pay their respects at the statue.