Dozens of free-roaming bunnies at this temple now have a new overlord looking out for them.

In Japan, religious sites like shrines and temples have a soft spot for bunnies. Not only is it a Chinese zodiac sign, taking pride of place at New Year’s events every 12 years, but its history in mythology has led it to become a symbol of cleverness and self-devotion; traits that align with the aspirations of monks and worshippers.

So it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that a temple in Japan has erected a bunny statue on its grounds. The only thing is, it looks like this.

The 6-metre (19.7-foot) tall “Bunny Kannon“, as it’s being called, contains an image of a Kannon, or Goddess of Mercy, in its chest. It’s an unusual location for the deity, especially given that the bunny appears to be pulling back its skin to reveal the peaceful face of the goddess.

▼ The statue was unveiled earlier this month at Chokokuji Temple on Niigata’s Sado Island.

Chokokuji is known for its population of more than 70 free-roaming rabbits, which have been spotted looking up at their new granite companion.

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According to the temple’s chief priest, the Bunny Kannon was erected to honour the rabbits on their grounds, who “help with weeding”, and also as a sightseeing feature to help draw tourists to the temple. And just in case the unusual feature wasn’t eye-catching enough, the statue was fitted with bright red light-emitting diodes in its eyes, which give the bunny a freakish appearance once the sun goes down.

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長谷寺のウサギ観音の光る目 夜のお寺にはなかなか足が向かないのですが、これを見たさに夜のお寺にお出かけする方が増えるかも。 佐渡の夜の新名所となるか!? Location: #佐渡 #佐渡島 #sadoisland #長谷寺 #ウサギ観音 * * #東京カメラ部 #Lovers_Nippon #wu_japan #ig_japan #bestjapanpics #bestphoto_japan #PHOS_JAPAN #wp_japan #photo_jpn * * #japan_night_view #ritorengo #visitjapanjp #photo_shorttrip #tokyocameraclub * * #写真好きな人と繋がりたい #写真撮ってる人と繋がりたい #ファインダー越しの私の世界 #日本は美しい #僕らの生きる世界は美しい #ひょっこりはん

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The reason the Kannon is pictured inside the bunny’s body is to symbolise the protection of its stomach, which helps the rabbits weed the grounds of the temple.

For many though, the statue appears to be more frightening than comforting, with people leaving comments like:

“Why on earth does it have to have light beams in its eyes?”
“This looks like Superman revealing his “S” mark.”
“It’s a bit odd that monks don’t mind praying in front of a bunny that’s had its body slit open.”
“Why did they choose to give it red eyes?”
“This is the creepiest rabbit I’ve ever seen.”

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#rabbit #ぱくりました #ウサギ観音

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Given the attention it’s currently been receiving online, it looks like the Bunny Kannon is doing its job in drawing attention to the temple. And for the chief monk and others who are attempting to raise funds to help restore the ancient buildings onsite, the extra attention can’t be a bad thing.

If you’re keen to support the temple and its rabbit population, pack your bunny bags and sweets and head to Sado Island, where the Bunny Kannon is waiting to meet you.

Temple Information
Chokokuji / 長谷寺
Address: Niigata-ken, Sado, 13 Hase
新潟県佐渡市長谷13番地
Website (Japanese)

Source: Livedoor News/Iroiro via My Game News Flash
Featured image: Instagram/itouya