• Kyodo

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Two 17-year-old youths have been arrested on suspicion of removing cherries from a bronze statue in Higashine, Yamagata Prefecture, it was learned Tuesday.

The arrests for alleged destruction of property were made Monday evening, according to police. The names of the suspects, residents of the cities of Higashine and Murayama, were not released because they are minors.

Investigators alleged that the pair took four cherries, worth some 40,000 yen, from the statue of Eisuke Sato outside JR Sakuranbo Higashine Station last month. Sato is the man who cultivated the famed “Sato nishiki” variety of cherries.

The two youths have admitted vandalizing the statue, which depicts Sato holding a branch of a cherry tree.

This month, the statue was robbed of another five cherries and all the leaves on the branch.

Municipal officials have decided to restore the statue to its original state at a cost of some 200,000 yen. The city has set up a surveillance camera and now posts a guard by the statue at night.

The vandalism is seen as a prank stemming from a spate of thefts of Sato nishiki cherries from orchards in and around Higashine in recent weeks, according to police. No arrests have so far been made in the fruit thefts.