NARA – Police trying to understand a bizarre sequence of vandalism at dozens of religious sites involving a substance resembling cooking oil said Tuesday that a surveillance camera at a temple had caught images of a man behaving oddly.
Investigators said the scene was caught at the main building of Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji Temple, better known as Shigisan, in the town of Heguri, Nara Prefecture, in late March. A similar individual appears in security camera footage recorded at other sites.
The man is wearing a hoodie and has a camera around his neck, according to the sources and the temple. He is seen holding his hand above the bottom part of a coin offertory box. But police said the image was recorded against the sun in the early evening and lacks clarity.
Investigators also revealed that a man of similar appearance had been captured on images recorded at other temples and shrines desecrated by squirts of the oil-like liquid.
The oily spots on the donation box at Shigisan Temple were discovered on April 9.
The Nara Prefectural Police are analyzing the footage and investigating apparent assaults on 19 temples and shrines in the prefecture tarnished with greasy liquid.
Police said that the same type of liquid was used at eight of those sites, including Shigisan Temple and Hasedera Temple in the city of Sakurai, implying the acts of vandalism are linked.
The police have also found two other types of substances squirted on other temples and shrines in the prefecture.
Similar incidents have been reported at temples, shrines and castles in other areas of Japan, and the number of prefectures hit total 11 including Nara. Police speculate the other cases were copycat acts.
One of the most recent incidents was reported in Kagawa Prefecture, where spots of greasy liquid were discovered at the Kotohira-gu Shrine in the town of Kotohira.
Prefectural police said Monday the same type of liquid had been splashed at the shrine’s pavilion as well as its main shrine, but have yet to confirm the type of oil.
Some of the stains were found on April 9 in the worship hall at the complex’s Asahi-sha Shrine, designated as a national important cultural property, while other stains were found three days later on a wooden screen inside the main shrine.
According to the shrine’s administrators, the oily stains found at the shrine’s pavilion had an odor resembling that of cooking oil.
Meanwhile, Wakayama Prefecture police have also been looking into a case of vandalism at the Kokawainari Shrine in Kinokawa where oily spots were found earlier this month.
According to the police, who said it was the first such case reported in Wakayama Prefecture, oily stains have been found in nine places inside the shrine, including the worship hall and the altar, on April 15.
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