A popular wooden statue of Binzuru Sonja, one of Buddha’s disciples, at a temple in Nagano Prefecture was returned Thursday after it was stolen the day before.

On Wednesday, police arrested Shintaro Morimoto, a 34-year-old man from Mifune, Kumamoto Prefecture, for allegedly stealing the holy Binzuru statue, which has been awarded a three-star Michelin Guide recommendation, from Zenkoji Temple in the city of Nagano. He was sent to prosecutors on Thursday.

Morimoto reportedly confessed to the crime, saying “if Binzuru-sama is present, earthquakes and events will occur.” The Binzuru statue is said to be able to cure illness or injury if a person touches parts of the statue corresponding to their own ailment.

The statue was reported stolen on Wednesday morning, police said, after a temple monk noticed it was missing. Security camera footage showed the suspect wrapping the statue in a white cloth and carrying it away.

Police arrested Morimoto around 11 a.m. near a commercial facility in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, about 60 kilometers away. The statue was found inside his car and the police said the statue did not appear to have been damaged.

The incident has shocked and upset some local residents who hold the statue in high regard.

“Of course I was shocked and I’m sure other people are too,” said an official at the temple who refused to reveal his name.

The Binzuru Sonja statue at Zenkoji Temple in 2009 | KYODO
The Binzuru Sonja statue at Zenkoji Temple in 2009 | KYODO