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Dilapidated, 100-meter-tall Buddhist statue in western Japan to be demolished

In this file photo taken on Nov. 29, 2018, a large Kannon statue which is planned to be demolished is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in the city of Awaji, Hyogo Prefecture. (Mainichi/Tadashi Kako)

OSAKA -- A dilapidated, about 100-meter-tall Bodhisattva statue in Awaji, Hyogo Prefecture, will be demolished along with an attached facility, the regional bureau of the Finance Ministry announced on April 1.

The statue complex has been closed and abandoned since its owner's death in 2006. Since then, parts of its exterior cladding have fallen off, among other signs of severe deterioration, and local residents are worried that it is now a safety risk. As no one inherited the buildings, the entire 19,000-square-meter property was nationalized on March 30 under civil law provisions, and the Kinki Local Finance Bureau in Osaka, western Japan, plans to have the complex fully demolished by fiscal 2022. The cost of the project is uncertain.

According to the bureau, the structures slated for removal include the "Sekai Heiwa Dai Kannon-zo" (world peace giant Kannon), an about 32-meter-tall tower called "Juju no To," and a temple gate.

The site is blocked off with fences now, but the bureau's rulings and legal affairs division stated that "there is a trespassing risk. It's very dangerous if something falls off (the structure), so we want to advance the procedures for demolition as quickly as possible." After soliciting bids from contractors, the bureau plans to remove the tower and temple gate in fiscal 2020, and the Kannon statue in fiscal 2021 to 2022.

The statue is made of concrete and located near a national road on the northeastern coast of Awaji Island, in Japan's Seto inland sea. A local businessman built the standing figure as "Japan's largest Buddhist statue" in 1982. The statue had an observatory just under its neck, and its five-story pedestal was an exhibition facility.

A local man in his 60s said of the demolition plan, "I'm relieved as the danger will be removed. I feel as if I've emerged from a long tunnel. I hope a facility that will make residents feel safe will be built at the site."

(Japanese original by Masaki Takahashi and Hajime Meno, Osaka City News Department)

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