Shorin-ji is an old Buddhist temple situated on the Hill Ogura in the Tanzan mountain system to the South of the Nara Basin. From this hill, one can look out over "Hashi-haka" (chopstick tomb), which is regarded as the tomb of Himiko (queen of the first Japanese dynasty, ca. 3rd century AD) and the woody site of the Omiwa shrine, the oldest shrine in Japan. This area is the cradle of Japan, the "ancient Yamato."
According to tradition, Shorin-ji was built in 712 to pray for the prosperity of the Fujiwara family, the most influential aristocratic family at that time. In its long history, Shorin-ji saw many fires, which prompted the rebuilding of all existing buildings in the 18th century during the Edo period. Most of its treasures were also burnt except some Buddhist paintings and statues. At around the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Eleven-headed Kannon or "Goddess of Mercy" (Ekadasamukha) statue was transferred to the Shorin-ji from Omiwa-dera temple located in the Omiwa shrine site, and since then, the Shorin-ji has been well-known because of this exquisite statue.
This statue, 209 cm tall and covered with gold foil on dry lacquer with a wooden core, is typical of Japanese Buddhist carvings of the Nara period (8th century) and is designated as a National Treasure. The figure is well-proportioned and massive, and is ranked equal to the Grecian Venus de Melo. On the other hand, the facial expressions are divine as if she were gazing at eternity.
It is also worth noticing that this famous statue was enshrined in Omiwa shrine, which is a Mecca for Shintoism, and related closely to ancient Shinto although it was carved when Buddhism was in full flourish in this country.