An ancient bell in the city of Osaka is under threat because the real estate firm that owns the land where it stands wants to sell.
The bell is located in the Tsuriganecho district in Chuo Ward, nestled among eateries and apartment buildings.
Residents are fond of it as a landmark and local timekeeper, as it chimes automatically at 8 a.m., noon and sunset every day.
The bell is thought to have been cast in the Edo Period (1603-1868). It is now the property of the prefectural government.
The bell has been moved several times in its lifetime.
At first it stood a little to the east of its current position. It arrived at the present spot on June 10, 1985, after serving a stint on the rooftop of the Osaka Prefectural Government building.
Local residents mark that day every year.
“It’s popular with kids. We hand out things like mochi (rice cake),” said Toshihiko Yamada, 70, who heads a group of volunteers that look after the bell.
Disaster struck last December when the group received a letter from the real estate company saying it can no longer afford to pay the property tax on the land. It summoned the volunteers for talks, saying they have three options: buy the land, pay rent or lose the bell.
“We are just a group of volunteers. There is no way we can afford to purchase the land,” Yamada said, adding that one option may be to launch a donation drive.
The volunteers say the land was initially owned by a major life insurance company. In the 1980s, they reached a deal with the insurance company to use the land for free. They say the real estate company inherited that obligation.
The volunteers and the real estate company are currently in mediation talks at the Osaka Summary Court.
The Osaka Prefectural Government, the bell’s owner, is taking part in the talks but is reluctant to purchase the land.
“It’s best to keep it in the neighborhood. We’d like to find a solution that can satisfy both sides,” a prefectural official said.
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