National

Kyoto turns to crowdfunding to maintain lesser known cultural assets

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

In an effort to get younger people more involved with preserving Kyoto’s traditional culture, a local heritage association has begun a crowdfunding campaign that seeks small, individual donations for the repair of temples, shrines and cultural assets.

The Kyoto Heritage Preservation Association, a group of about 370 owners of temples, shrines and other assets that are often hundreds of years old, launched the campaign earlier this week with the goal of raising ¥12 million by March 2019.

Kyoto Prefecture is known for sites designated as Important Cultural Properties and National Treasures, but it is also home to many less famous assets that have long been supported at the local level. The association says a declining population and changing economic situation makes it more difficult for owners of non-designated assets to preserve and maintain them.

It was for this reason that the modern idea of crowdfunding was tapped to help repair and maintain ancient properties — many of which are important to Kyoto’s historical, aesthetic and cultural traditions despite not being easily found in guidebooks — according to Hajime Nakamizo, an association spokesman.

“Many of those who go to see to exhibitions of cultural properties not always open to the public are older people,” Nakamizo said. “We decided to appeal to younger people who use the internet through a crowdfunding campaign, in the hopes of educating them and inspiring them to help out by donating a little money to preserve what they’ve seen.”

Repairs using traditional carpentry techniques and materials can be extraordinarily expensive and the financial burdens on owners can be huge. In addition, due to the ages and conditions of many cultural assets, extra care must be taken when displaying them for public view, requiring the purchase of specialized, expensive display cases.

“Donations will also be used for things like publicity, the printing of posters and flyers, and advertising special showings of these cultural properties,” Nakamizo said.

Pledges of ¥3,000 are requested. Donations collected over the next year will be passed to a committee of cultural experts, which will decide how to divvy up the funds. Fixing temple and shrine buildings is a likely priority, but some money may also be used for repairing damaged Buddhist statues and paintings. Donors can receive receipts for tax purposes, and select invitations to occasional private showings of the cultural assets their donations have helped maintain.

More information (in Japanese) can be found at the project website, kobunkacrowd.com.

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