An eighth-century Japanese temple and UNESCO World Heritage site in Nara Prefecture, Toshodaiji Temple, had a building vandalized by a Canadian teen tourist who carved letters into a wooden pillar, local police said Friday.

The 17-year-old boy was questioned on suspicion of violating the cultural properties protection law. He is suspected of having carved letters with his fingernail on the pillar of the temple's "Golden Hall," also designated a national treasure, they said.

Defacements mar a wooden pillar at Toshodaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, on July 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Nara Prefectural Police)(Kyodo)

A "J" that was 4 centimeters long and 5 cm wide and "Julian" that was 2.5 cm long and 10 cm wide were inscribed at a height of around 170 cm on the pillar.

A Japanese tourist saw him vandalizing and alerted temple staff.

"We are worried that the same thing could happen again. Even though it may have been done without malice, it is still regrettable and sad," a monk at the temple said.

Several buildings of the temple in Nara, which is a popular tourist destination, had experienced vandalism in 2015.