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Man With Hunting Rifle Takes Over Zen Temple in Kyoto

January 4, 1986

KYOTO, Japan (AP) _ A gunman protesting a local law taxing temple entrance fees took over a famous Zen Buddhist shrine for nine hours before police stormed the building and arrested him early today, officials said.

Eiichi Oyama, 53, an unemployed Kyoto resident, entered Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion Temple, Friday afternoon and brandished a hunting rifle, said a Kyoto prefectural police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

From the temple corridor, Oyama demanded an apology from Kyoto Mayor Masahiko Imagawa for trouble caused to the public by the new tax law, which the Kyoto City Assembly levied last July, the official said.

A dozen temples in the ancient capital city of Kyoto closed their doors to the public when the law took effect, saying religious organizations should be exempt from taxes.

The temples reopened in August after an agreement was announced between the city and the Kyoto Buddhist Temples Association, but closed again in early December to protest wording in the final draft of the agreement.

The temples, including Kinkakuji, are visited by millions of tourists to the western Japan city each year, and the city estimated the tax could net $500,000 annually.

The police official said Oyama was able to enter the closed temple because he wore the black robe of a Buddhist priest and said he had permission to take photographs.

About 10 priests who were on the grounds at the time managed to escape safely, and Oyama took no hostages.

During his siege, he shouted, ″I’m demanding an apology from the mayor because he is causing trouble to the Kyoto Buddhist Temples Association and the public with the closure of the temples,″ said the police official.

He also left taped statements in a coin locker at Kyoto’s central train station demanding that the mayor ″repent″ over the tax issue, according to the official.

Shortly after midnight, police stormed the temple and arrested Oyama for trespassing and violating weapons possession laws. He did not resist arrest and later told police he was sorry to disturb them during the New Year holidays, the police official said.

His hunting rifle was found to have been unloaded, but police found 51 cartridges on Oyama, the official said. Under Japanese law, police can hold a person for up to 20 days while prosecutors decide whether to press charges.

Authorities said the gold-plated three story structure was not damaged in the incident.

The police official said Oyama had said he was ″satisfied″ because the incident received wide media coverage in Japan.

″I’ve accomplished my goal,″ the official quoted him as saying. ″I chose Kinkakuji to make it dramatic. It had to be Kinkakuji or Kiyomizudera,″ another famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

Kyodo News Service reported that Oyama also entered Kinkakuji on Dec. 31, claiming he had permission to take photographs, but left when he saw children ringing the temple bell, a traditional practice on New Year’s Eve. Police did not confirm the report.

The Zen Buddhist temple’s history dates back to the 14th century when it was built as part of a villa. It was damaged by war and disrepair and subsequently underwent extensive renovation in the 19th century, only to be destroyed in 1950 by a fire set by a youth protesting the degradation of Buddhism.

Zen, a Buddhist sect of China and Japan, is based on the practice of meditation rather than on adherence to a particular scriptural doctrine.

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