NIKKO, Tochigi Prefecture--A repair worker’s erroneous note apparently led to a 200-year case of mistaken identity of a Buddhist statue guarding a World Cultural Heritage site temple here, officials said.

The statue is of one of two “protectors” that stand in small enclosures at both sides of the Nitenmon gate on the grounds of Nikkozan Rinnoji temple’s Taiyuin mausoleum. The Nitenmon gate is a government-designated important cultural property.

They are believed to have been made around 1653 when Taiyuin was completed after the death of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun in the Tokugawa dynasty (1603-1867).

Name plates placed for the two statues read “Komokuten” and “Jikokuten.”

In Buddhism, Shitenno (four heavenly kings) statues, which ward off evil and malicious spirits, are named Komokuten, Jikokuten, Tamonten and Zochoten.

When the Nitenmon gate was refurbished for the first time in 50 years between 2014 and 2018, a detailed survey uncovered an eye-opening fact, temple officials said.

The statues’ forms and other characteristics were compared with those of the Shitenno sculptures at Toshodaiji temple in Nara and elsewhere, according to Risshi Shibata, director of Rinnoji’s Homotsuden treasure museum.

Komokuten normally carries a brush and a scroll in its hands. But the Komokuten statue at Rinnoji has a sword, Shibata said.

Zochoten is the heavenly king that normally has a sword in its hand.

So Rinnoji officials decided to change the name of the statue in question to Zochoten.

During the refurbishment, the word “Komoku” written in ink was found inside the statue that had been referred to as Komokuten. It is believed to have been written when the sculpture was repaired in 1797.

“There is a high possibility that the name was mistaken during the repair work,” Shibata said.