Two shrines and a temple in the Japanese city of Nikko have abolished a joint admission ticket they had been selling for more than 100 years, amid strife over large-scale repairs at their facilities.
The three religious sites are all elements of the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Shrines and Temples of Nikko, located in the Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo.
The two shrines wanted to suspend selling the ticket, as some of their buildings will be closed to the public for repair work. However, the temple was against it, saying it would not be able to complete its own planned repair work without the income from the ticket sales. Their negotiations broke down, resulting in the abolition of the common ticket, which has a history dating back to Meiji era (1868-1912).
The common ticket, priced at 1,000 yen (about $10) for an adult, was valid for visiting designated areas on the precincts of Nikko Toshogu shrine, Futarasan shrine and Rinnoji temple. That represented a savings, as the entrance fee for the Nikko Toshogu shrine alone normally costs 1,300 yen for an adult. The ticket sales were allocated to the three facilities according to the agreement.
Renovation work on the Yomeimon gate at Nikko Toshogu started in June. Pest extermination work began last week at the main hall of Rinnoji, and the temple plans to start repair work after about a month of entry restrictions. Futarasan Shrine is scheduled to begin renovating its main hall next spring. Completion of the work at all three facilities is expected to take six years.
As some of the buildings will be closed and unable to accept visitors during the work, the two shrines proposed suspending sales of the joint ticket sale until all work is completed. They contend that the common ticket is valuable only when there are buildings to enter and see at all three places.
Toshogu, a shrine very popular among tourists, can expect to collect enough funds for the repair work by selling its own admission ticket.
When heads of the three facilities met earlier in July, they almost reached an agreement that Toshogu would consider partially subsidizing the expenses for renovations of the other two.
However, Rinnoji's representative was opposed to a long-term suspension of the ticket, because the sales of an admission ticket only for the temple, priced at 300 yen to 900 yen, account for less than 10 percent of its overall revenue from admission fees. "If the common ticket is not on sale, it will be impossible to carry out the renovation," said the temple's representative.
The temple is less popular than Toshogu, and visitors will not even be able to see the external appearance of its main hall for a while. It had planned to cover half of the total renovation costs of about 5.3 billion yen with revenue from the common ticket.
Although the temple insisted that common ticket sales be suspended only until it finishes the pest extermination work, Toshogu and Futarasan decided to leave the common ticket system.
"It's a pity we can't visit the shrines and temple with the common ticket," said Machiko Takeyama, a 65-year-old woman from Tokyo who went to Nikko with a friend. She noted that more tourists may end up concentrating on the hugely popular Toshogu, bypassing both the temple and Futarasan.