Photo/IllutrationA tiny Buddha statue engraved in the “kakemamori” good luck charm reproduced with a 3-D printer (Yoshiko Sato)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--A tiny Buddha statue secreted in a roughly 1,000-year-old good luck charm designated as a national treasure is the first discovery of its kind.

The Kyoto National Museum said the 3.3-centimeter-tall sacred figure was detected through X-ray CT scanning of the artifact dating to the late Heian Period (794-1185).

The “kakemamori” charm, a wooden core with decorative brocade and metalwork, was designed to be worn around the neck.

It was known that something was inside the amulet, but what it is remained a mystery.

Measuring 6.4 cm by 7.3 cm, the cherry-blossom-shaped charm, kept by Shitennoji temple in Osaka, incorporates a 5.5-cm-tall “butsugan” cylindrical container with the Buddha statue engraved inside.

Takayuki Ichimoto, a curator at Shitennoji, said the discovery is the first evidence that people in the Heian Period carried Buddha deities in their charms.

He said the butsugan is made of fragrant sandalwood and the statue likely represents Amitabha.

The butsugan, which can be divided into two, reveals the finely engraved standing statue on one half. The other half features a carved three-legged table with an incense burner and flower vases.

The charm is believed to have been donated to the temple by a person of high rank, based on the sophisticated brocade weaving techniques and other details.

“The statue was created in exquisite detail, expressing a deep faith in Amitabha,” Ichimoto said.

The Kyoto National Museum reproduced the butsugan with a 3-D printer.

The good luck charm, along with the recreated butsugan, will be shown at Shitennoji’s Treasure Hall from April 21 through May 6.

Shitennoji has seven kakemamori in its collection, and Kumano Hayatama Taisha shrine in Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture, has one.