Photo/Illutration The Hiroshima Daibutsu installed at Gokurakuji temple in Ando, Nara Prefecture, on May 22, 2013 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

HIROSHIMA--A large, ancient statue of Buddha, displayed near ground zero soon after the atomic bombing to provide emotional support for survivors, is finally coming home after disappearing for half a century.

The Hiroshima Daibutsu (big Buddha statue) is currently enshrined at Gokurakuji temple in Ando, Nara Prefecture, and will be temporarily sent back to Hiroshima for the first time in 67 years to go on public display in July.

It is a gilded wooden statue about four meters tall and believed to have been made during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), in or around 1200.

Over the centuries, it moved from one place to another across the country, taking up residence in places such as Yamagata Prefecture and Tokyo.

It was enshrined at the Daibutsuden hall of Sairenji temple, located on the east side of the Atomic Bomb Dome here, on Aug. 4, 1950, as a symbol of peace.

It was greeted with great fanfare at the time.

Large memorial services were held for atomic bomb victims on Aug. 6 that year and in subsequent years. Thousands of citizens attended the annual summer festival at Sairenji to offer incense and flowers.

People carried the statue in a march through the Hondori shopping street known as the "Reconstruction Parade."

In 1995, it was relocated to Kozenji temple in Itsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, which is today located in Hiroshima's Saeki Ward.

Before long, the traveling Buddha moved yet again, to another temple, before it went missing for nearly 50 years.

It remained lost until Zengi Tanaka, 36, the chief priest of Gokurakuji, became curious when his grandfather referred to a statue he received from an antique dealer in 2006 as "a daibutsu that came from Hiroshima.”

The priest had a hunch. He asked an expert at the Nara National Museum to examine it.

It was confirmed in 2011 that the statue was none other than the missing Hiroshima Daibutsu.

The committee that organized the project to return the Hiroshima Daibutsu to its home announced the details to the media at a news conference on April 7.

The committee is made up of Tanaka, along with Tetsuya Matsuda, chairman and CEO of the Hiroshima-based Mazda car dealership Hiroshima Mazda Co., and others.

"We hope Daibutsu that saved hibakusha survivors can comfort the world that is suffering from the war in Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic," Tanaka said. "We want to convey the energy of Hiroshima that rebuilt itself from the atomic bombing."

The Hiroshima Daibutsu will be shown at the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower in the city's Naka Ward from July 1 through Sept. 1, and a peace memorial service will be held on Aug. 6.

On Sept. 10, the Reconstruction Parade will take place once again along the Hondori shopping street.

The executive committee is raising funds through donations and a crowdfunding campaign at (