An art exhibition that sparked controversy for featuring a statue symbolizing "comfort women" reopened Tuesday in Nagoya, central Japan, with organizers placing tighter security and limiting the number of visitors after it was abruptly closed two months ago following threats.
The exhibition titled "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" will be open for seven days through next Monday, the last day of the Aichi Triennale 2019 art festival in which it is included.
It showcases 23 works including the statue symbolizing women, many of them Korean, who were recruited to work in Japan's wartime military brothels against their will, as well as a piece on the Japanese imperial system.
The tighter security measures include baggage inspections with metal detectors. The exhibit had been canceled three days after the Aug. 1 opening, with organizers citing security reasons after receiving numerous complaints and threats.
"I thought it is not right that people criticize without actually seeing the works," said a man in his 50s who came to the venue from Osaka before the reopening. "Now I can finally see it for myself."
People had lined up to take part in a lottery to join the two groups of 30 people allowed to enter the exhibition on Tuesday. A total of 709 people applied for the first group of entry set for 2:10 p.m. and 649 others did so for the second entry for 4:20 p.m.
The winners went through an education program prior to receiving a guided tour, and they were banned from taking videos and posting them on social networking services.
Organizers are considering getting a promise from visitors in written form that they will not post photographs on SNS.
The organizers also introduced steps to better deal with telephone complaints about art works previously not shown due to what critics say is censorship.
The measures were some of the conditions requested by Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, who heads the steering committee of the art festival, after an investigative panel set up over the issue called for the reopening last month.
Meanwhile, Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura staged a sit-in at the venue on Tuesday afternoon to protest at the reopening.
"Don't allow the illegal use of public funds," he said, as others opposing the exhibition gathered.
Kawamura criticized the event as "a violence to hijack public opinion in the name of freedom of expression" after visiting the exhibition in the morning.
The mayor, who is the steering committee's acting head, has also said the capital city of Aichi Prefecture will not pay by the Oct. 18 deadline some 33.8 million yen ($315,000) as part of the expenses for holding the event.
Kawamura previously sparked controversy when he demanded the exhibition be shut, arguing the statue should not be displayed at a publicly funded event as its presence could give the wrong impression that Japan accepts South Korea's claim the women were forcibly taken by the Japanese military.
The "comfort women" issue has been a major sticking point in Japan-South Korea relations, which have recently sunk to the lowest point in years due to disputes over wartime history and tighter export controls.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs has also withdrawn a grant worth approximately 78 million yen for the art festival, citing inadequacies in the procedure, saying the Aichi government failed to provide necessary information when applying for the state subsidy.
Culture minister Koichi Hagiuda said Tuesday the reopening does not change the agency's decision and denied allegations that the agency decided not to pay the subsidy because it deemed the exhibition's contents inappropriate.