Photo/IllutrationDaisuke Tsuda, the artistic director of the Aichi Triennale, holds a news conference on Aug. 3 to explain the decision to cancel an art exhibition at the event. (Yoichi Kawatsu)

KOBE--The Kobe city government announced Aug. 9 it was canceling a symposium featuring the individual at the center of controversy involving the Aichi Triennale.

The planned guest speaker, journalist Daisuke Tsuda, serves as artistic director of the arts event in Nagoya. Tsuda decided to cancel an art exhibition following a wave of protests about some of the displays, most notably a statue symbolizing wartime "comfort women."

City authorities received about 170 phone calls and e-mail messages over roughly two days complaining about such a controversial figure attending an Aug. 18 symposium at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe.

The symposium was intended to publicize an arts festival being planned for Kobe from September until November under the title of "Art Project Kobe 2019: Trans-."

The original plan called for Tsuda and two others, including an architect, to hold a debate on the theme of whether art was capable of accepting foreign objects.

The autumn arts festival in Kobe will mainly involve outdoor theater shows and painting on buildings. None of the controversial items that were pulled from the Aichi Triennale were to have been exhibited.

However, according to Kobe city government officials, phone calls began ringing from about Aug. 7 asking that Tsuda not be invited. Others wanted to know if the comfort women statue would be displayed.

Most of the phone calls and e-mail messages were critical about inviting Tsuda, with only a few requesting that the symposium go ahead.

In explaining the decision to cancel the symposium, one city official said: "With various views being expressed toward Tsuda on social networking sites, we felt it would have been difficult to meet the primary objective of publicizing the arts festival. There was also the possibility of confusion at the venue if we went ahead with the symposium."

Tsuda expressed surprise at the sudden cancellation, but also said he could not blame the event organizers based on his own experience with the protests received over the Aichi Triennale.

He accepted that the organizers were likely concerned about ensuring safety at the venue and smooth holding of the event.