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Priest of UNESCO-honored temple resigns after molestation accusation

NARA (TR) – An upper-level priest at the famous Todai-ji Temple in Nara City resigned last week following the emergence of allegations that he molested a female staff member, reports NHK (Nov. 16).

On multiple occasions in July, Shoshu Hiraoka, a 69-year-old priest at the Todai-ji Temple, is alleged fondled the chest of the staff member, a university student aged in her 20s, on the temple grounds.

On November 9, police sent Hiraoka to prosecutors on suspicion of indecent assault. Six days later, prosecutors announced the non-prosecution of Hiraoka after an out-of-court settlement was reached with the victim.

Prior to his resignation, Hiraoka presided over Nigatsu-do, a hall at Todai-ji Temple. He was also the chairman of the board of the Todaiji Welfare Ryoiku Hospital.

Shoshu Hiraoka of the Todai-ji Temple in Nara City
Shoshu Hiraoka of the Todai-ji Temple in Nara City (NHK)

Founded in 752, Todai-ji is one of Japan’s most famous temples. In 1998, UNESCO named it as a World Heritage Site.

“We sincerely apologize for losing the trust of many people,” a representative of the temple was quoted by NHK. “We have advised monks [at the temple] to be conscious of their position in making efforts to prevent a recurrence.”