• Kyodo

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The Japanese galleries at the British Museum have been opened up to visitors full time after a year of restricted access due to funding problems, a spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

Officials say the museum’s financial position is currently healthy and they do not envisage any future closures of the Japanese galleries — a move they bitterly regretted having to make in the first place.

At the end of April 2003, the museum decided to, in effect, close the three galleries (Konica, Main and Urasenke) to the general public and only allow pre-arranged guided access.

This was because the museum needed to save money to deal with a deficit running at about £3 million (about 6 million yen).

The Japanese galleries were particularly vulnerable to cuts as they tended to put on more exhibitions than other sections of the museum.

At the time, the museum blamed inadequate central government funding and a fall in London tourists due to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

The decision led to some criticism from the Japanese community in London because it had not been consulted over the move.

However, museum bosses learned in April their cost-cutting program — which also involved reducing operating hours in some of the museum’s 90 galleries — had put them back into the black and they could restore full access to the Japanese galleries, as well as return to normal hours for most of the other rooms in the museum.

After reopening its doors in the summer, the museum has just launched its major exhibition for the Japanese galleries this year, a display of antique Japanese swords.

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