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Nagano's Zenkoji Temple abbot asked to step down after sexual harassment accusation

Zenkoji Temple is seen in Nagano. (Mainichi)

NAGANO -- One of the two top priests at Zenkoji Temple here has been asked to resign following allegations of sexual harassment and discriminatory statements, it has been learned.

    Gencho Komatsu, 82, head abbot at the temple, was handed a document on June 25 from representatives of followers of the Daikanjin temple at Zenkoji Temple, stating, "Such conduct is unbecoming of a Buddhist monk, who is said to be a living Buddha, and we ask for your immediate resignation."

    A general meeting of the representatives was held earlier that day, where the 12 members in attendance decided to demand the abbot's resignation.

    According to the document and other sources, a woman in her 60s who is an employee of the Daikanjin temple complained of sexual and power harassment by Komatsu -- in response to which he unjustly ordered her to be replaced in August 2015. In October of the same year, the document continued, Komatsu made discriminatory statements regarding the woman to another employee.

    The representatives have asked Komatsu to resign once before, when he was served with a civil suit that also centered on problems involving a woman.

    The June 25 demand for Komatsu's resignation was issued after the representatives considered his ongoing problematic attitude as well as the recent discriminatory statements, and concluded that such behavior "cannot be overlooked."

    According to head representative Hidehiro Kasuga, Komatsu accepted the letter but denied the allegations, saying, "I never made discriminatory statements." It remains unclear whether he will indeed resign.

    Learning of the matter, a group known as "Issan" comprised of temple masters from the Tendai Buddhist sect issued a separate document to Komatsu on June 23 ordering him not to report to work at the main temple hall.

    The Headquarters of Buraku Liberation League and its Nagano prefectural chapter have also held several meetings on the matter this year. The next one is set for June 28, where Komatsu is expected to make a statement.

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