Todaiji temple’s Great Buddha gets cleaned before holiday

NARA–UNESCO World Heritage Todaiji temple was filled with the heavenly sight of flying white-robed priests vigorously dusting the towering Great Buddha statue ahead of the Obon holidays.   

Around 170 priests and staff participated on Aug. 7 in an annual cleaning called “Ominugui” (literally, “wiping bodies”), removing a year’s worth of dust from the 15-meter-tall statue, or “Rushanabutsu,” the temple’s main object of worship.

After purifying themselves in the bathhouse, participants gathered at the Great Buddha Hall dressed in white and held a ceremony to temporarily remove the “soul” of the Great Buddha.

Then, using three manually hoisted gondolas for the high-altitude work, they cleaned its head, face, shoulders, hands and body with dusters and brooms for about two hours.

“I hope many people can see the refreshed and pristine appearance of the Great Buddha after the cleaning,” said Koei Hashimura, the chief priest.

“Many things have changed in a positive way,” he said.