I stumbled upon some information on the Ryozen Kannon the day before my mom and I had planned on visiting Kyoto – I am a big fan of big Buddhas so I knew it was somewhere I’d want to visit!
According to Wikipedia , this building and statue are meant to commemorate the Japanese men and women who died in World War II. The statue is of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of mercy, and there are memorial tablets of 2 million Japanese people who died during World War II.
Kyoto was spared during WWII. I've heard a lot about Hiroshima and Nagasaki since I've moved to Japan and a lot of the other American teachers have made the trip to view the museums and memorials in those cities. I was also told that Kyoto was on the list of cities to be bombed during WWII. Having been to Kyoto and experienced the history present there it would have been a shame if the city had actually become a target. I've read conflicting theories on why Kyoto was on the list of cities to bombed and why it was not actually bombed. Some say that the US understood Kyoto's cultural significance and decided to spare it but other articles simply say that there was not military or political reason to bomb Kyoto so they simply didn't bomb it. Either way, I'm grateful that Kyoto and all of its history and magic are still standing.