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Lawsuit over jigsaw puzzle featuring Japanese World Heritage temple settled

This file photo taken on Nov. 15, 2019 shows the Phoenix Hall lit up at Byodoin temple in the city of Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)
Byodoin Chief Priest Monsho Kamii, center, speaks at a press conference in the city of Kyoto on Oct. 12, 2020. (Mainichi/Kanae Soejima)

KYOTO -- A lawsuit filed by Kyoto Prefecture's Byodoin temple against a toymaker selling jigsaw puzzles featuring the UNESCO World Heritage site was settled on Oct. 12, with the toymaker agreeing to discard remaining stock and the temple covering the cost of disposal.

    According to Byodoin, the ancient temple and Tokyo-based toymaker Yanoman Corp. agreed at the Kyoto District Court that Yanoman will dispose of about 300 jigsaw puzzles created from a photo of the temple's Phoenix Hall, a national treasure that appears on Japan's 10-yen coins. Byodoin, in exchange, will pay about 170,000 yen (about $1,600) for the disposal. Byodoin said that Yanoman would not make and sell new products using pictures of structures at Byodoin without permission.

    Byodoin filed the lawsuit in March 2019. According to the suit and other information, the company produced and sold jigsaw puzzles using a photo taken by a photographer on the grounds of the temple during a night visit. Byodoin claimed that the products gave consumers the impression that the temple easily allowed the company to use a picture of the building for commercial purposes. Byodoin also claimed that a flyer for visitors clearly states that commercial use of photographs taken within the grounds is prohibited, and that the company violated this contract, which was agreed upon at the time of the visit.

    Byodoin held a news conference in the city of Kyoto on Oct. 12 after the settlement. Monsho Kamii, 57, the chief priest of Byodoin, commented, "I want to continue activities to raise Japanese cultural and religious consciousness."

    Yanoman on Oct. 13 released a comment about the settlement on its website, saying, "We accepted the settlement as the court recognized that the company didn't commit any illegal acts. The jigsaw puzzles already circulating in the market can be purchased without any problems."

    (Japanese original by Kanae Soejima, Kyoto Bureau)

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