A man turned himself in to the police Tuesday evening in Gifu Prefecture, saying he drove climbing accessories into a rock designated as a national treasure.
The central government is investigating inadequate local protection for natural monuments after two bolt hangers were found driven into Oni Iwa Rock, a designated national natural monument in Gifu Prefecture that stands around 15 meters high.
The man told police he decided to turn himself in after watching the news showing the damage to Oni Iwa, the police said, adding that they are investigating whether he had been aware of the rock’s national treasure status.
Oni Iwa is located in Hida-Kiso River National Park, which straddles Gifu and Aichi prefectures. Police have been investigating the case as a suspected violation of the law for protecting cultural properties.
The Cultural Affairs Agency has interviewed municipal and prefectural officials and plans to urge them to do more to preserve such sites and places of scenic beauty.
Separate from the Gifu case, the agency also discovered around 60 wedges in rocks at the Tenryukyo gorge, a government-designated place of scenic beauty in neighboring Nagano Prefecture.
“These cases are possibly just the tip of the iceberg amid the booming popularity of climbing,” said Tadahiro Shibata of the agency’s cultural property department. “We will determine the nationwide trend first.”
The Japan Free Climbing Association said many climbers are unaware that such sites are designated cultural properties.
Nationwide, there are about 240 geological and mineral formations designated as national natural monuments and 250 or more rocks and gardens designated as places of scenic beauty. It is the responsibility of prefectural and municipal governments to look after them.
Source: Kyodo Video and image: ANN