Buddhist statue stolen from Japan temple

A burglar has stolen a Buddhist statue from a temple in western Japan famed for having the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world, local police said Monday.

Staff at the Horyu-ji temple complex, located in the southwestern outskirts of the ancient capital of Nara, 378 kilometers (236 miles) west of Tokyo, reported the theft of a statue from one of its buildings early Sunday morning, local police official Toshiyuki Tsujimoto said.

Police investigating the report found that the wooden grille on a window in the room where the statue stood had been cut open, he said. The missing 74-centimeter-tall (29 inch-tall) statue is an early 20th century replica of a Buddhist figure designated by the government as a national treasure, he said. The original figure is stored elsewhere in the complex, he said.

Later Sunday, police in Kashihara, 15 kilometers (6 miles) to the southeast, arrested Kosuke Okuma, 43, after staff at a temple found him with one of its statues, an 80-centimeter (31 inch)-tall figure, in his bag, local police official Koetsu Omori said Monday.

Police are investigating whether Okuma was involved in the theft at Horyu-ji, both Tsujimoto and Omori said.

The Horyu-ji temple complex was built in the early 7th century A.D. It is home to several wooden buildings believed to date at least to the 8th century, making them the oldest wooden structures in the world, reports the AP.


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