Denomination: Soto (曹洞宗)
Main Image: Juichimen (11-faced) Kannon Bosatsu (十一面観音菩薩)
Location: Makinoko, Izu City (伊豆市牧之郷)
The main hall of Gyokuto-in, a Soto sect temple located in Shuzenji houses an eleven-faced Kannon Bosatsu, a goddess of mercy and compassion. There are different explanations as to why there are eleven faces. Some say the goddess, after witnessing such great pain in suffering in humans, split itself into eleven so as to be able to spread compassion and mercy in all directions. The most common belief however is that the ten faces arranged around the head of the statue represent the 10 stages of the Path to Enlightenment of a Bodhisattva. The eleventh head, which is located usually in the center and is elevated, and/or may be larger than the other ten faces, represents the eleventh stage, Enlightenment.
The image of the Kannon in Gyokuto-in is what is referred to as a hibutsu, or concealed image of the Bodhisattva. Unfortunately I was not able to see it when I made my visit. The head monk explained that long ago the image was only displayed every 33 years, although recently he has been displaying it every 5 years.