SASAGURI, Fukuoka -- A ceremony to clean a huge sleeping Buddha statue was carried out at Nanzoin Temple here on Wednesday, with about 200 people taking part.

During the annual ceremony, a group of people, including the temple's deputy chief priest, stood on a special platform and used bamboo leaves fixed to the end of 5-meter-long poles to clean the face of the Shaka Nehan (nirvana) statue, which lies horizontal on the ground. Afterwards, temple followers dressed in happi coats wiped down the body and legs of the statue.

After the ceremony, visitors clasped their hands together in prayer in front of the cleaned statue, praying for good health in the new year.

The Shaka Nehan statue, which is familiarly known as "Nebotoke-san" (sleeping Buddha) was built in 1995. It is 11 meters tall and 41 meters long, and weighs about 300 tons. It is said to be one of the largest bronze Shaka Nehan statues in the world. ... 0000c.html