NARA--Three Buddhist statue masterpieces belonging to Kofukuji temple here will go on display at a cultural expo in France, the first time to be exhibited outside Japan.

Titled “Japonismes 2018: les ames en resonance” (Japonism 2018: souls in harmony), the expo will kick off in July, featuring Japanese traditional arts, subculture and other cultural trends at venues in Paris and elsewhere.

The three statues--two government-designated national treasures and an important cultural property--will be put on display at an official exhibition.

According to prefectural officials, the central government-hosted expo will commemorate the 160th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and France in 2018. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then-French President Francois Hollande had agreed to hold the event in May 2016.

Running for eight months until February 2019, the expo will introduce traditional performing arts including Kabuki and Noh and “gagaku” court music. The event will feature more than 50 programs including manga and anime-themed exhibitions.

The three Buddhist statues that will be featured at the expo are two Kongo Rikishi guardians of the Buddha, respectively named Agyo and Ungyo (national treasures), and Jizo Bosatsu (important cultural property), all of which belong to Kofukuji temple. They will be unveiled at a special exhibition at the Guimet Museum in Paris starting in January 2019, hosted by the prefectural government and the French museum.

The prefectural officials set up a project committee for an overseas exhibition of Buddhist statues in June 2016 last year to promote treasured properties in Nara Prefecture to the world. The officials asked Kensuke Nedachi, a professor of art history at Kyoto University’s graduate school, to serve as an adviser on arts and cultural policies and made other efforts to proceed with the preparations. The officials are also planning to hold a similar exhibition at the British Museum in 2019.

Their efforts are aimed at helping attract tourists by promoting the charms of Nara Prefecture both at home and abroad ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

“We’d like you to get a firsthand look at the real Buddhist statues and feel their beauty, impressiveness and spiritualness,” said an official from the division in charge of the utilization of cultural resources. “Nara was the last stop of the Silk Road trade route. We want to promote its charms and attract visitors.”

To coincide with Japonismes 2018, director Naomi Kawase’s new film, currently being shot in Yoshino in the prefecture, will be shown in France. Screening locations, dates and other details have yet to be determined.