The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)
For half a century, Yoshiaki Ishizawa, a former president of Sophia University, has studied and worked to preserve the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Ishizawa, 74, is now preparing to guide Crown Prince Naruhito when he visits the complex on Thursday.
Many of Ishizawa's Cambodian colleagues were lost in the massacres perpetrated by the Pol Pot regime and the nation's civil war. He has also seen the temples deteriorate, but he continues to offer assistance, saying, "I want Cambodians to preserve these great ruins."
"I want to tell the crown prince about Cambodian Buddhism's worldview (sic?), which is carved in a gallery," Ishizawa said.
Ishizawa first visited Angkor Wat in 1961 as a university student. He was impressed by the size of each stone used to build the temples and wanted to know the wishes and prayers of the people who built them. To that end, he became an assistant to a French researcher.
In the 1970s, Ishizawa could not enter the country because of the Pol Pot regime's atrocities and the country's civil war.
In 1980, he received a telegram from fellow researchers in Cambodia seeking his help. Although there had been nearly 40 Cambodian researchers, the telegram told Ishizawa the number had fallen to three due to the violence.
That year, Ishizawa entered Cambodia for the first time in 12 years. Angkor Wat had not been destroyed, but the stones had deteriorated and the complex was in bad condition.
"I thought these great ruins inherited from their ancestors should be repaired by Cambodians themselves," Ishizawa said. To this end, he recruited young people from nearby villages and began by mowing the grass in the complex.
Wishing Cambodians to take over the mission of the lost researchers, Ishizawa began fostering young scholars in the country. Some Cambodian students have studied at Sophia University on scholarships from the Japanese government.
With cooperation from Japanese companies, Sophia University established its Asia Center for Research and Human Development in 2002 near Angkor Wat. It offers Cambodians instruction in such expert fields as archaeology, geology and ecology in their home country.
Ishizawa has visited Cambodia more than 100 times in the last half century. He now spends at least three months a year there.
He has always told young Cambodians, "Observe the letters on these stone monuments," which are written in ancient Cambodian. Ishizawa said he wants young Cambodians to be proud of their ancestors' great achievements and contribute to rebuilding the country.
The Khmer Empire, which built Angkor Wat, also constructed excellent water-utilization systems, which supported a prosperous life for its people.
The crown prince's academic life work is studying transportation by water, water utilization and other water-related affairs. He is said to be interested in water utilization at Angkor Wat.
The crown prince was to depart for Thailand on Monday and arrive in Cambodia on Wednesday.
Angkor Wat is a complex of stone temples near Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. The most prominent feature of the complex--the most famous remnant of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the ninth to 14th centuries--is a 65-meter-high spire.
In 1992, Angkor Wat was registered as a World Heritage Site. On the surface of the gallery, there are letters in black ink that are believed to have been written by Japanese people who traveled to the country aboard trade ships in the initial years of the Edo period (1603-1868).