Photo/IllutrationPrayers are offered in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, in January 2019 at a storage facility containing murals that were located at Horyuji temple’s Kondo main hall when it was on fire in 1949. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Reacting to the inferno at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, the Agency for Cultural Affairs on April 17 announced emergency fire-prevention measures for designated national treasures, important cultural properties and art museums.

The agency is asking prefectural governments to ensure that such properties have sufficient equipment to prevent fires from spreading and limit damage from lightning strikes, in addition to proper security measures.

Action has already been taken in Nara and Kyoto prefectures, where clusters of historic buildings and treasures are located.

The Nara municipal fire department on April 16 asked 79 temples or shrines to check their fire-prevention equipment, such as automatic fire alarms.

In January 1949, the Kondo main hall of Horyuji temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, was severely damaged in a fire, prompting the enforcement of the law for the protection of cultural properties the following year.

“I felt something really terrible had happened after seeing the pain of French people,” Shokaku Furuya, head of the administrative office of the temple, said after the fire in Paris. “We need to hand down our temple in its current state to the next generation by exercising extreme caution.”

The Kyoto municipal fire department on April 16 instructed officials of Eikando Zenrinji temple in the city’s Sakyo Ward to take fire-prevention measures.

Firefighters checked for flammable materials at a site where walls were being repaired. They also ensured that water-discharging devices were properly set up at the Amidado main hall, which contains the rare sideways-facing Statue of Amitabha Tathagata, a government-designated important cultural property.

Kyoto city’s department of protection for cultural assets on April 16 distributed fire-caution notices to seven institutions that are renovating cultural properties, including Wakamiya Hachimangu shrine in Higashiyama Ward.