Photo/Illutration This picture shows a part of “Shihonchakushoku Shuikotokuden volume 8, which was sold at an auction on Nov. 18. (Provided by New Art Est-Ouest Auctions Co.)

A painted handscroll dating to the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) that is registered with the government as an important cultural property has fetched 243.9 million yen ($2.13 million) in a rare auction in Tokyo.

Selling, buying or auctioning an item designated as a national treasure or an important cultural property is not prohibited, but a government official said the purchase of this work is highly unusual.

“Auctioning a painting registered as a national treasure or an important cultural property is unheard of,” said an official from the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

The important cultural property that was sold at the auction, held by New Art Est-Ouest Auctions Co. based in Tokyo, on Nov. 18, is called “Shihonchakushoku Shuikotokuden volume 8.”

It illustrates the death bed of Honen, the founder of Pure Land School of Buddhism. It measures approximately 16 meters in length, with a width of about 39 centimeters, and is owned by an individual living in Japan.

The name of the successful bidder has not been made public.

The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties stipulates that selling of a national treasure or an important cultural property requires that the name of the buyer and the planned selling price be reported to the government before a formal contract is concluded.

The government can step in and purchase a national treasure or an important cultural property before anyone else, a right it is entitled to so it can protect important cultural assets. When the government does not buy the national treasure or the important cultural property, its owner can sell it to someone else.