A 59-year-old truck driver named Shuji Hotta has been arrested by Japanese authorities for allegedly faxing an arson threat to the organizers of the Aichi Triennale in the Japanese cities of Nagoya and Toyota. He was apprehended on Wednesday after convenience store security footage showed him sending a fax the week before. Police arrested him on suspicion of obstructing business by force, police told Japan Times. Hotta’s handwritten fax threatened to set fire to the Aichi Arts Center using gasoline, evoking last month’s arson attack on the Kyoto Animation studio, where 33 people were killed.
The current edition of the Aichi Triennale includes the exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?”, which features artworks that have previously been censored by Japanese institutions. Earlier this month, the exhibit fell victim to censorship when it was closed because of official outcry over the inclusion of a life-size sculpture of a seated female figure, a so-called “comfort woman.” The sculpture, by Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sang, represents one of the 20,000 to 410,000 women who were forced to become a sexual slave for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Seventy-two of the artists in the exhibition signed a letter calling for the reopening of the exhibition.
In a statement released on Friday, the Aichi Triennale’s artistic director Daisuke Tsuda said:
the Triennale's administrative office has received an overwhelming amount of phone calls, many of which were what appeared to be threats of terrorism, or verbal attacks on the individual staff members manning the phones. These calls have continued well into the night and have only grown in number. We are considering a further course of action in the event that this situation persists and the safety of visitors and staff continues to be threatened. The need for such a response would, however, demonstrate to our citizens—and to the world—that Japan's current social climate does not allow for discussions about the state of our country, or about the darker aspects of its past. We hope the offending parties will take this into account and consider the gravity of their actions.