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Giant Buddhist goddess statue in Fukushima dons massive mask to pray for pandemic end

AIZUWAKAMATSU, Fukushima -- To pray for a swift end to the coronavirus pandemic, a giant Buddhist goddess statue in this Fukushima Prefecture city has been outfitted with a huge, order-made mask.

    The 57-meter-tall statue stands in the city's Aizumura garden park. According to the park's operator, the Aizu Betsuin branch of Houkokuji temple, the statue was erected in 1987 by a man who survived the war and founded the park as a prayer for his fallen comrades and world peace.

    A recent earthquake off Fukushima Prefecture in February damaged the statue and created cracks, and park operators decided to give the statue a mask at the same time as doing the repair work.

    Workers are seen using ropes as a custom-made mask is put on the face of the 57-meter-tall goddess statue in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

    The vermilion mask -- a color said to ward off evil -- is 4.1 meters high, 5.3 meters wide and weighs about 40 kilograms. The special-order item is made from a nylon golf net and other polyvinyl chloride parts. It was bolted to the statue's face by seven workers, and can reportedly endure winds as strong as 40 meters per second.

    "Putting (the mask) on the goddess could be a message for people to protect themselves and those around them," said the temple's chief priest Shinryu Ikeda. "I hope the coronavirus pandemic will end soon."

    (Japanese original by Kengo Miura, Aizuwakamatsu Local Bureau)

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