Many are familiar with the name Hashiri Daikoku for this statue, but in recent years it has come to be understood as a generic protective deity of temple precincts (garanshin). Such deities are called kannōshisha or kansaishisha in Japanese, terms that refer to divine envoys dispatched as guards or overseers. The dynamic posture and vivid facial expression are representative of the physicality of late-Kamakura-period sculpture.
Masterworks from the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall at the Nara National Museum. Nara National Museum, 2013, p.148, no.153.
The statue was finely expressed with dynamic movement and flowing garments, representing a lively style in the Kamakura period. It has been popularly attracted by the name of “Hashiri Daikoku” (Running Mahākala), however recent study suggests as “Kannō Shisha”, one of the tutelary icons in the Buddhist hall.
Masterworks from the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall at the Nara National Museum. Nara National Museum, 2010, p.139, no.149.
The deity Daikoku-ten (Mahākāla) is usually enshrined in store-houses and is supposed to offer fortune in response to prayers. This deity has its origin in India and was introduced to Japan via China. In Japan, Daikoku-ten was enshrined as a principal image of the Mandokoro in Enryaku-ji temple and was respected especially in the Tendai sect. Usually, a Daikoku-ten statue has two arms and is wearing a hōi style costume and is carrying a large sack.
The statue of Daikoku-ten introduced in this article was made in the method of joining hinoki wood pieces (Japanese cypress). The core of the statue was carved out, and crystal eyeballs were inserted. The outside of the statue is colored. The running pose of this statue with its swinging arms and with one leg stepping forward is classified as the Hashiri Daikoku (running Daikoku) type. Daikoku-ten statues of the same type are kept in Onjō-ji temple in Shiga prefecture and Chūzen-ji temple in Nikkō. Among all Hashiri Daikoku type statues, this one in the Nara National Museum is the oldest. The realistic expression of its face, the powerful running style and the fluttering costume reflect the lively expression of the sculptures of the Kamakura period.
Masterpieces of Nara National Museum. Nara National Museum, 1993, p.30, no.17.