The idea to add the mask arose during discussions about the statue’s restoration after it was damaged in an earthquake in February, according to temple manager Takaomi Horigane.
It took four workers three hours to scale the statue on ropes and hoist the 4.1 by 5.3 metre (13 x 17 foot) mask to the top. They then unfurled the fabric, which weighs 35 kilograms (77 pounds), over the lower half of Kannon’s face. Her features remain visible beneath.
The statue, which holds a baby in its arms, attracts worshippers who come to pray for the safe delivery of their babies or for blessings for their newborns. Visitors can also climb the spiral staircase inside the statue up to its shoulders.
The mask was added on Tuesday, days before an expected announcement on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Tokyo – which will host the Olympic Games next month – as well as six other areas as cases fall.
Latest statistics suggest that there is an average of around 1,600 new cases each day in the country, down from a daily peak of nearly 6,500 in mid-May.
An average of 60 people are currently dying of Covid-19 in Japan each day.