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Japan's biggest wooden statue of warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi found in Osaka shrine

Japan's largest wooden statue of 16th century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which was recently found, is seen in this photo taken at Omiya Shrine in Osaka's Asahi Ward in May 2020. (Mainichi/Kensuke Yaoi)
The chief priest of Omiya Shrine talks about Japan's largest wooden statue of 16th century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which was recently found, at Omiya Shrine in Osaka's Asahi Ward in May 2020. (Mainichi/Kensuke Yaoi)

OSAKA -- Japan's largest wooden statue of 16th century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi sitting was found inside Omiya Shrine in this western Japan city, the Osaka Municipal Board of Education announced on May 21.

After Hideyoshi passed away in 1598, he was deified under the name Toyokuni Daimyojin. But it is believed that people were not allowed to openly practice their belief under the Tokugawa shogunate, and only about 20 wooden statues of Hideyoshi had been confirmed nationwide.

The one found in Omiya Shrine in Osaka's Asahi Ward is made with joined woodblock construction, and is believed to have been produced in the Edo period (1603-1868). Though the statue's crown seems to have broken off, it measures 81.9 centimeters -- the tallest of such wooden statues found in Japan.

An official with the city's cultural property protection department said, "It's the first case indicating that Hideyoshi was also worshipped in Osaka, apart from documentary records, and is extremely valuable."

People were said to have worshipped Omiya Shrine for protecting Osaka Castle -- built by Hideyoshi -- from the direction called "Kimon," superstitiously believed to be unlucky, and legends said the shrine owned a Hideyoshi statue. But the statue was first discovered in January after the Osaka Municipal Government investigated the shrine pavilions for a renovation plan.

The statue was reportedly enshrined in the shrine pavilions, which were nailed shut. It shows an elderly Hideyoshi, with deep horizontal wrinkles on his forehead and eyebrows hanging down. He is shown wearing a ceremonial court dress, sitting with the back of his feet together and is thought to have worn a cloth crown.

Though the precise date of production remains unknown, it is believed that the statue was made before 1823, when the shrine unveiled it to the public.

(Japanese original by Kensuke Yaoi, Osaka City News Department)

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