A Canadian teenager was questioned by police in Japan earlier this month for allegedly carving his name on a pillar at Toshodai-ji, a historic Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan. A Japanese tourist alerted temple staff after witnessing the alleged vandalism early in the afternoon of July 7. The temple, which dates from the XNUMXth century AD, is recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance.
“The boy admitted his act and said it was not done with the intention of harming Japanese culture,” a police official said. “He is now with his parents, who were with him when the incident happened. (Artnet News)
The 17-year-old is accused of having engraved with his fingernails the letter "J" and the name "Julian" on a wooden pillar in the golden room of the temple. When questioned by authorities, the boy reportedly said he was just trying to pass the time.
"Even though it could have been done without malice, it's still regrettable and sad," said a monk from Toshodai-ji. (Euronews)
If the teenager is found guilty of destroying Japanese cultural property, he could be fined ¥300 (US$000) or five years in prison.
The incident came as tourism booms in Japan, raising concerns about similar acts of vandalism at historic sites. In April, the total number of foreign tourists in Japanese hotels exceeded 10 million. It is the first time it has reached this figure since January 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An important ingredient in the increase in foreign tourist numbers in recent months has been China's easing of travel restrictions.
"We expect a continued increase in the number of international flights from China, as there was an 11% increase in capacity between March and April 2023," said Asami Chung, chief executive of travel management firm FCM. Japan. (Japan time)
The day after the alleged vandalism, Toshodai-ji staff posted a sign: “Please don't damage the venue. You will be punished for violating the law on the protection of cultural property. (The Washington Post)
The vandalism resembles a similar incident in June in Rome, where a Bulgarian fitness instructor named Ivan Dimitrov allegedly carved his name and that of his girlfriend into the Colosseum. Dimitrov, 27, asked for forgiveness, saying he did not know the age of the wall he was vandalizing, telling the Italian prosecutor: "I confess with the deepest embarrassment that it was only after what unfortunately happened that I learned the antiquity of the monument. ” (Artnet News)
Toshodai-ji was built in 759 CE under the guidance of the Chinese monk Jianzhen. Built in a style similar to temples in Tang Dynasty China, the temple is one of eight historic monuments in ancient Nara, which was once the capital of Japan. The temple's Golden Hall is described as "the largest Tempyo-era (eighth century) structure remaining in Japan today" which has "been written in many famous ancient poems". Moreover, “The row of its pillars recalls the Parthenon of Greece. » (The Washington Post)
The temple belongs to the Risshu school, one of the six main schools of Buddhism in Japan, founded in Japan by the Chinese monk Jianzhen (Jp: Ganjin), who lived from 688 to 763 CE.