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Statue of hope in Fukushima

TOKYO (AsiaNews): A statue of the goddess Kannon, the Buddha of Compassion, has been sculptured out of timber from the pine forest that surrounds the Buddhist temple of Taimadera, which was destroyed in the earthquake and the tsunami that devastated Fukushima in March 2011.

The sculptor is calling it a sign of hope for the survivors and a call to prayer for the souls of those who died during this tragedy. 

Crafted out of the wood of 70,000 pine trees that were destroyed in mother nature’s fury, the statue will be placed under the last tree left standing in the forest that surrounds the temple.

Seizan Watanabe, a famous sculptor of Buddhist statues from Shida, was invited to join the project by a municipal employee at Katsuragi in Nara prefecture. Immediately after the tragedy of March 11, he was sent to the Tohoku area to give support to victims and oversee the reconstruction work.

The Taimadera Temple was located in the area of Katsuragi, which is known for its beautiful pine forests.

Saddened by the destruction of trees and the waste of the lumber, he contacted Watanabe and invited him to come to the area. After a short stay at the temple, Watanabe met survivors.

He said, “They told me they could not give in to what happened, but had to go on. So I had the idea of carving a Ayumi Kannon, a deity who embodies compassion and invites people to move forward one step at a time.”

More than 7,000 people helped to gather pieces of wood and send them to Watanabe in response to an appeal by the local monks.

To strengthen the fragile timber, Watenabe added some more robust lumber using the ichibozu-zukuri method, chiseling from the largest to the smallest. He also responded to all those who had contributed, sending them splinters of the processed material for good luck.

The statue was unveiled on January 24 at Watenabe’s home, but it will be donated to the area of Rikuzentakata, one of the hardest hit by the tsunami, on July 11.

On that date a soul infusion ceremony for the statue will be held. The sculptor, accompanied by prayer from Buddhist monks, will paint the eyes, giving it the chance to see the world and human beings.


After a period in Rikuzentakata, it will be placed under the last pine tree left standing at the destroyed temple.

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