Regarding the March 2 Kyodo article “Yakushiji pagoda (in Nara) open first time in 1,300 years“: As a long-term resident of Japan, I have a very strong passion for Japanese history, arts and places of significant historical interest. I have found, though, on numerous occasions that historical places or items are either not open to the public or not permitted to be viewed. Every now and then an article like the one above comes along mentioning that a place or item has suddenly been thrown open for a short time after either a very long period of not being accessible, or for the first time ever.

It is a pity that so many of Japan’s treasures, historical sites and items are concealed away in the dark and forbidden to academics, historians and members of the public who have a deep passion to learn about them. Why is this so?

Surely there are methods to alleviate concerns about potential damage to the place/item. Income from visits could help offset associated costs. In particular, should not temples and shrines have a certain obligation to open their doors and engage in the human spirit of mutual understanding and harmony?

It seems unfair that these items and places are put off-limits when they could provide not only insights into Japan’s history, arts and culture but also the opportunity for younger and older generations to view and appreciate the works of their forefathers.

My hope is that more and more of these “hidden” treasures and historical sites in Japan are opened up in a respectful way to the public, who, after all, should be entitled to experience the wonders of their long and unique culture. What is the point of the treasures’ existence if humans cannot view them?

phil anderson

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