Our temple’s statue of Nichiren Shōnin, which was originally brought to our temple by Rev. Matsumoto in 2001, has been in the care of the Institute for Restoration and Conservation of Buddhist Cultural Properties at Risshō University, the University of Nichiren Shū, for the past three years.
The statue was in need of restoring, and through the process of careful restoration and conservation carried out at Risshō University, some of the history of the statue was discovered. Although no date is recorded for the sculpting of the statue, and the identity of the sculptor is unknown, it is believed that the statue could be at least 400 years old. One clue as to its age are the sleeves of Nichiren Shōnin’s robes, flowing over the sides of the base. Also, the delicate curves of the statue indicate that it was not one which was widely produced, but was likely made for a specific purpose.
A record on the base states that the statue was repainted by a monk named Masujiro Kamijo during the Meiji Era (September 1868- July 1912). However this repainting was only one of many, and the restoration team found thick layers of paint from previous restorations. The layers of paint can tell the story of a statue, however, after much deliberation, it was decided the team would remove the colouring which was added later. This route, rather than a retouching of the paintwork, was taken because the thick paint obscured the statue’s original delicate but strong impression and shape, and the beautiful original carving work.
The statue of Nichiren Shōnin returned home to our temple in June 2013 after three years. We are very grateful to the team at Risshō University for their careful work on our statue, which is a treasure of our temple. Through this process we have been able to learn of the value of our statue as a cultural and artistic icon, as well as being an item to help us in our Buddhist practice.