Protect Jingu Gaien's trees! Rethink the development plan!
Protect Jingu Gaien's trees! Rethink the development plan!
Additional info added 4-14-2022
In March, we submitted over 50,000 signatures on this petition and our request letter to Governor Koike. Unfortunately, she went ahead and approved the Jingu Gaien redevelopment plan anyway. However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has only approved the planning area and framework, and the specifics of the project and construction will be decided in the future.
This plan, which is fraught with problems, needs to be revised. To that end, I plan to draft and deliver another written request letter, this time to Mitsui Fudosan, Itochu, the Japan Sports Promotion Center, and Meiji Jingu Shrine. To have as much impact as possible, let’s get as many signatures as possible on the petition! Anything you can do to further spread the word through social media and other means would be appreciated.
I would also like to clear up a misunderstanding that has recently arisen as a result of the media coverage, which has focused on the most shocking aspect of the plan – the plan to cut down 1,000 trees. As a result of the media’s highlighting the tree issue, some people seem to think that we are just reacting emotionally.
Of course, it is unforgivable to cut down 100-year-old precious trees, but the Jingu Gaien area redevelopment project is not only about that, it is also full of other problems. Here is a list:
(1) It is a great contradiction that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government claims to want to create a "world-class sports cluster," yet all the sports facilities in the park that can be used by the general public, such as a softball field, golf driving range, futsal courts, and batting center, are to be eliminated. It is not fair that the only sports facility to remain is an expensive membership-only tennis club.
(2) The plan does not explain why this project is in the public interest and why it is necessary and economically viable for the citizens of Tokyo.
*The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided that the current baseball and rugby stadiums are outdated, but is this really the case? Is renovation alone not sufficient? And what is the point of switching the locations of the baseball and rugby stadiums?
*Do we really need another large facility when the newly built huge national stadium is right next door? An analysis of projected usage and associated revenues should be conducted and the information made public.
*Are the opinions of baseball and rugby fans being reflected? There are many fans who feel attached to the current ballpark and stadium.
3) The unfair trade-offs mentioned above have not been properly and openly discussed. Nor has any information been presented regarding the current usage levels of the park facilities, or what facilities would replace those slated to be eliminated.
(4) Governor Koike has emphasized that the iconic four rows of ginkgo trees will be preserved, but the huge baseball stadium to be built will come very close to them, and it is feared that their roots will be damaged. Also the exterior wall of the stadium will be right next to the ginkgo trees, which will drastically change the appearance of the area.
(5) The Governor Koike's claim that the amount of greenery will be increased is a complete deception. In the plan, lawns and low plantings are considered equal to trees that have lived for 100 years. Although the simple square footage of greenery may be going up, the volume of greenery is going down.
6) There is not enough concrete data or explanation of the projected environmental impact of this redevelopment. It is clear however that increasing the number of skyscrapers and huge buildings and on top of that reducing the number of trees will result in huge CO2 emissions.
(7) The Jingu Gaien redevelopment plan was conceived before the Coronavirus pandemic, and it is questionable that no changes have been made to the plan to reflect the major shifts in social activities over the past two years. It is unlikely that society will return to the same way it was before the pandemic. The plan needs to be fundamentally revised from this perspective.
To say that this is a reckless plan riddled with problems is an understatement. It is incredible that such an outrageous plan has been approved. But there is still the possibility to get it changed if we as citizens speak up loudly enough. We need to raise our voices and not give up!
Original text from when the petition was first posted.
The environment of Meiji Jingu Gaien is threatened
Designated as Japan’s first Landscape Conservation Area in 1926, Jingu Gaien has provided Tokyoites with an urban oasis for nearly 100 years.
The park has been miraculously preserved as a rich green environment despite being in the heart of the city.
The park contains many historical elements and is filled with beautiful scenery such as the iconic plaza in front of the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and the rows of stately gingko trees. The park represents an irreplaceable urban heritage.
This precious environment is about to be threatened by a huge redevelopment project that will start this year.
Did you know that nearly 1,000 precious trees are about to be cut down without the public's approval?
The “Jingu Gaien District Redevelopment Plan” has proceeded without public involvement
The redevelopment plan is being put forth by Mitsui Fudosan, Itochu, Meiji Shrine and the Japan Sport Council. In addition to rebuilding of the Jingu Stadium and the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, the redevelopment plan calls for the relocation of the members-only tennis club and the construction of a high-rise tower building for commercial, hotel and office use.
In the process, the park area will be reduced and nearly 1,000 trees will be cut down.
This plan was approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's City Planning Council on February 9, 2022.
Many Tokyoites may have only learned about the development plan from newspaper reports of its approval.
Despite calls for the city to listen to the opinions of its citizens and proceed cautiously, the Council voted to approve the plan with a majority of votes in favor, saying that “there has been sufficient discussion.” This was a decision made without residents' involvement, centered on the developer, and based on the assumption that the project would of course move forward.
It is extremely frustrating and concerning that the redevelopment plan was decided on without sufficient notice to the people of Tokyo and the entire Japanese public.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government released the details of the plan on December 14, 2021. The comment period was only for two weeks after that.
At a briefing on the draft plan held on the same day, the residents who attended voiced their concerns, dissatisfaction, doubts and anger, but the official in charge simply gave a one-sided explanation and said that the decision could not be changed.
With such an undemocratic approach, can it be said that people of Tokyo have been properly consulted about this redevelopment?
It seems that the people in charge knew that if the contents of the plan became widely known, there would be a lot of opposition, so they gave only minimal public notice about it.
First of all, there needs to be a careful and fair disclosure of the details of the plan. And even if the plan does go ahead, the city needs to take the time to discuss and exchange opinions with residents in an open manner.
Protect the 100-year-old trees!
One shocking element of this redevelopment plan is that more than half of the existing trees in the park are slated to be cut down or transplanted.
Many of these trees are historic and valuable.
Already, some 1,500 trees were cut down when the new National Stadium was built. Is this kind of destruction of the urban environment acceptable?
The slogan "preservation of a lush green environment" appearing in the proposed plan is nothing but empty words.
The nearly 1,000 trees that are slated to be cut down include 100-year-old trees.
The government says that they will preserve the trees, including by transplanting them. However, successfully transplanting old trees is practically impossible, and in the end the result is the same as if they were cut down.
In addition, the city is talking up the plans for planting more trees later. But small new trees are not one-to-one replacements for valuable old ones.
This approach is deceptive and is just intended to deflect opposition. Once a tree is lost, it can never be regained.
This kind of environmental destruction is in direct contradiction to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's embrace of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and its stated intention to reduce CO2 emissions. The city needs to revise the plan to make it consistent with the environmental values it espouses.
Remake the plan so it’s an environmental conservation project we can be proud of
The ICOMOS Japan National Committee, the Japanese branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, an international non-governmental organization involved in the protection of cultural heritage, has formally recommended that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government revise the redevelopment plan. This statement from an authoritative international organization is significant.
I (Rochelle Kopp), along with the signers of this petition, hope that we can work together to turn this redevelopment project into a world class environmental conservation project, and that it will be the first step in the transition from emphasizing mass consumption and large-scale development to an approach that is more in harmony with nature.
We request that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the developers who are leading the redevelopment project accept the ICOMOS proposal to "protect Jingu Gaien as part of the urban heritage" and promptly make appropriate changes to the project plan.
In particular, we call on Meiji Shrine, as the key participant in this project, to reconsider its decision. The natural harmony of the Meiji Shrine should not be disturbed by its own hand.
About this petition
Last May, aiming to protect the nature of Yoyogi Park, I started a petition to protest the plan to build a public viewing live site for the Tokyo Olympics.
In the end, 150,000 signatures were collected on that petition. The campaign led to many voices of opposition, and the plan was ultimately cancelled.
Of course, I was not the one who stopped the project. I only provided the catalyst. It was each and every person who signed the petition that made the difference.
Many people wonder if they can have an impact just by signing a petition.
However, the voices of the 150,000 people who signed the petition attracted a lot of attention and were picked up by the media, including television, which made even more people aware of the existence of the plan.
Our cause attracted a lot of support and ultimately, we were able to make change happen.
We, the people of Tokyo, demand a revision of the "Jingu Gaien District Redevelopment Plan" to protect its historic landscape and role as an urban oasis.
Our signatures express our will and have power.
Thank you very much for your support.
English references (for references in Japanese please refer to the Japanese version of the petition)
Tokyo gives the OK to redevelop leafy Meiji Jingu Gaien The Asahi Shimbun
1000 Trees to be Felled in Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien Garden Global Research