Horyuji temple launches crowdfunding for maintenance work

Japan's Horyuji temple, which houses the world's oldest surviving wooden structures, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to gather donations for its maintenance.

Horyuji, in the ancient capital of Nara in western Japan, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

The chief priest of the temple, Furuya Shokaku, made the announcement at a news conference on Wednesday.

He said the temple is facing financial difficulties because admission fees -- its main revenue source -- have halved due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the temple welcomed about 650,000 visitors in fiscal 2019, but the number plunged to 200,000 in 2020, and roughly 350,000 people went there in 2021.

Furuya said temple officials have cut back on expenditures over the past two years, such as by reducing labor costs and taking care of trees at the site less frequently. They have also suspended repair work on structures and artifacts that are not designated as national treasures or important cultural assets.

The chief priest expects the number of visitors will gradually increase as coronavirus infections in Japan have stabilized. But he said the financial situation remains severe.

The temple has set a target of raising 20 million yen, or about 148,000 dollars, by July 29. Officials say they will offer various gifts according to the amount of donations.

Furuya expressed hope that the crowdfunding will help keep the temple in good condition.