Photo/IllutrationAfter a 920 million yen restoration project, spruced-up Sentai Senju Kannon ryuzo statues are returned to the Sanjusangen-do hall in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward on Dec. 22. (Kenta Sujino)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Forty-five years and 920 million yen ($8.12 million) later, the restoration of the famed 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, was finally completed at Sanjusangen-do hall of a temple here on Dec. 22.

The last nine spruced-up statues were carried into the temple that morning, marking the end of Japan’s longest project of its kind.

The big budget effort, whose final price tag was confirmed by the Cultural Affairs Agency, was made possible by an approximate 60 percent government subsidy.

One of the 1,001 Sentai Senju Kannon ryuzo statues stands behind the primary effigy Senju Kannon zazo statue in the Sanjusangen-do hall, both of which are designated national treasures.

The other 1,000 are evenly split, arranged either side of the Senju Kannon zazo statue standing on tiered platforms.

“Senju” literally means “one thousand hands,” but in reality statues in the temple have 42, two of which are the main hands held together in prayer, and the other 40 each saving 25 worlds of “rinne,” a cycle of birth and rebirth, in Buddhism.

With 1 million people annually visiting the hall in the city's Higashiyama Ward, the 1,001 statues are recognized as national important cultural properties, but they had been deteriorating due to dust from sources such as clothes fibers that stuck to their surfaces.

The accumulation caused damage to the statues’ lacquer coatings and gold leaves, which were peeling off.

Since 1973, the statues had been brought to the Bijutsuin kokuho shurijo studio every year in groups of up to 50 at a time to be repaired.

The delicate work included dust removal and uplift prevention for the gold leaves on their surfaces.

The 1,001 statues can be seen in their full glory from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.