Rankan are students of the Buddha who have reached enlightenment. In keeping with Japanese Buddhist traditions the rankan statues of Otagi Nenbutsu-ji are cute or comical in appearance.
The temple was founded by Empress Shotoku in the 8th century. It was destroyed by wars, floods and typhoons. Each time it was reconstructed. The 1200 rankan statues were donated in the latest reconstruction in 1981. Most were sculpted by amateurs (students).