On November 4, together commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan-Cambodia diplomatic relations, a ceremony was held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to celebrate the opening of the Western Causeway of Angkor Wat with the first crossing ceremony as a national event hosted by the Cambodian government. Led by Professor Yoshiaki Ishizawa, former President of Sophia University and Director of the Sophia Asia Center for Research and Human Development, the 200-meter-long Western Causeway was opened after 33 years of work by Cambodian conservators trained under the direction of Prof. Ishizawa completing the restoration work.
The ceremony was attended by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni of the Kingdom of Cambodia, current Prime Minister Hun Manet, former Prime Minister Hun Sen, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts H.E. Phoeurng Sackona, government ministers and officials, H.E. Hang Peou, Director General of the APSARA National Authority of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and From Sophia University, Sali Augustine, S.J., Chancellor of Sophia School Corporation, Professor Yoshiaki Ishizawa, and other guests. This grand ceremony was held at the Western Causeway of Angkor Wat, with approximately 1,000 people, including students and local and foreign guests, filling the venue.
Prof. Ishizawa made a speech and informed His Majesty the King about the history of the Sophia Mission, which focuses on the conservation and restoration of Cambodian monuments by its own people, for its country with the principle of international cooperation, including fostering of Cambodian archaeological conservators. He then addressed, “Above all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and respect to Cambodia for the great deal of knowledge I have gained, such as the issues concerning water and stones concerning conservation and restoration as well as the glorious history of the Angkor Empire while being engaged in this project. We would like to continue collaborating with the people of Cambodia moving forward.”
His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni expressed his appreciation to Professor Ishizawa and others for their efforts in promoting the sustainable conservation of Angkor monuments as well as the development of human resources including archaeological conservators. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and the first crossing of causeway by His Majesty the King and other distinguished guests followed. After the ceremony, the Western Causeway of Angkor Wat was opened to the public, and many people, including workers involved in the restoration, those who came to celebrate, as well as tourists, enjoyed taking many photos with Angkor Wat in the background.
The University, together with the APSARA National Authority, will continue to support the periodic maintenance of the Western Causeway and the fostering of Cambodian archaeological conservators.
＜Sophia University and the Restoration of the Western Causeway of Angkor Wat＞
The Western Causeway of Angkor Wat is the gateway for visitors crossing the moat encircling Angkor Wat and has collapsed several times in the past.
Professor Yoshiaki Ishizawa, Director of the Sophia Asia Center for Research and Human Development, has played a central role in this work. To train Cambodian archaeological conservators lost in the civil war, Prof Ishizawa launched intensive courses for university students studying archaeology and architecture at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh in 1991. In 1996, at the same time as the construction of the first phase of the Western Causeway of Angkor Wat began, the Sophia Asia Centre for Research and Human Development in Asia was established in Siem Reap. The Centre has been working closely with the restoration work sites for 33 years and has been committed to the training of conservators. Today, Professor Ishizawa’s students are leading the conservation work of cultural heritage and archaeological sites in Siem Reap, as university teachers, civil servants, and other key figures in the country. Professor Ishizawa’s achievements and contributions are highly regarded, and he has been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Prize, considered Asia’s Nobel Prize, and the Grand Cross of the Order of Friendship of the Kingdom of Cambodia (Sahametrey Grand Croix).