Canadian teenager carves name into Japanese treasure: faces severe penalties

A 17-year-old Canadian teenager, named Julian, visiting Japan with his parents, was caught in the act of defacing a UNESCO World Heritage site, Toshodaiji Temple. The temple, a cherished national monument from the 8th century in Nara, houses the historic "Golden Hall," now marred by the teen's name etched into a wooden pillar.

A Japanese tourist spotted the teen scratching his name on the pillar with his fingernail and reported the act of vandalism to the temple staff. Local police questioned the boy, accusing him of violating Japan's cultural properties protection law, which carries the potential penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to ¥300,000 ($2,120).

In response to the event, a temple monk told The Mainichi that "even though it may have been done without malice, it is still regrettable and sad."

This recent act is part of a distressing trend of tourist vandalism on treasured historical sites worldwide, such as the recent defacing of Rome's ancient Colosseum.

Toshodaiji temple in Nara City, Nara Prefecture in Japan. (Wako Megumi /