Giant face mask added to Buddhist statue in Japan to pray for the end of Covid

A giant face mask has been placed over the nose and mouth of a Buddhist statue in Japan in an act of prayer for the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pink net mask will remain on the face of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, until the Covid-19 situation is under control in the East Asian country, officials say.

The white statue stands 57 metres (187 foot) high above the Houkokuji Aizu Betsuin temple in the Fukushima Prefecture, making it 1.5 times the height of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue.


The idea to add the mask arose during discussions about the statue’s restoration after it was damaged in an earthquake in February, according to temple manager Takaomi Horigane.

It took four workers three hours to scale the statue on ropes and hoist the 4.1 by 5.3 metre (13 x 17 foot) mask to the top. They then unfurled the fabric, which weighs 35 kilograms (77 pounds), over the lower half of Kannon’s face. Her features remain visible beneath.

The statue, which holds a baby in its arms, attracts worshippers who come to pray for the safe delivery of their babies or for blessings for their newborns. Visitors can also climb the spiral staircase inside the statue up to its shoulders.

The mask was added on Tuesday, days before an expected announcement on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Tokyo – which will host the Olympic Games next month – as well as six other areas as cases fall.

Latest statistics suggest that there is an average of around 1,600 new cases each day in the country, down from a daily peak of nearly 6,500 in mid-May.

An average of 60 people are currently dying of Covid-19 in Japan each day.


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