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100-year-old ginkgo trees could get the axe under disputed plan for Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien park



TOKYO — Miho Nakashima stood Sunday in Tokyo in a two-piece swimsuit next to a century-old gingko tree, its body painted from head to toe with green leaves and brown branches.

Her message was clear, and she repeated it in the heart of Jingu Gaien Park, whose sanctity is threatened by a contested real estate development plan.

“I am a tree,” she says. “Don’t cut me.”

A plan approved earlier this year by Governor Yuriko Koike would see developers, led by Mitsui Fudosan, build two 200-meter (650ft) skyscrapers in Jingu Gaien, mow down trees in one of the few green spaces of Tokyo and to raze and rebuild a historic rugby site and an adjoining baseball stadium.

Takayuki Nakamura, among several hundred people gathered to protest on Sunday, pressed his face against the bark of a tree and prayed. The area was set aside 100 years ago to honor Emperor Meiji of Japan.

“I want to appreciate the existence of these trees. Sometimes I can feel sounds inside,” he said.

The planned redevelopment would take more than a decade and has drawn lawsuits with growing opposition from conservationists, civic groups, local residents and sports fans.

Eighteen ginkgo trees located behind the rugby stadium are at risk of being felled.

The hot spot has been trees, green spaces and who controls a public space that has been encroached upon over the years. The fate of more than 100 gingkos that line an avenue in the area and produce a colorful cascade of falling leaves each fall is also in question. Botanists claim that any construction is bound to cause damage.

Critics say the project was rammed through despite a botched environmental assessment, with property developers taking what was supposed to be public land and turning it into a private commercial enterprise.

The famous Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami opposed this project. And composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto sent an open letter to Koike ridiculing the project just days before his death on March 28.

The rugby stadium was used in the 1964 Olympics and Babe Ruth played in the baseball stadium in 1934 alongside other American stars against top Japanese players.

The project highlights the links between the main actors: the governor, Mitsui Fudosan, and Meiji Jingu, a religious organization that owns a large part of the land to be redeveloped.

“Redevelopment of the park is obviously a public matter,” Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University, told The Associated Press earlier this year. “At the same time they (the politicians) can claim that this is a private decision of a religious organization and the promoters.

“But since Jingu Gaien is also a public park with sports facilities, politicians can – and do – interfere in decisions. This results in intimate, probably collusive relationships between insiders who are not accountable to the public. »

Around 1,500 trees were felled in the same area to build the Tokyo Olympics stadium, valued at $1.4 billion. The Olympics also allowed the city to change zoning laws, which could allow developers to encroach further on the park area.

“It’s like building skyscrapers in the middle of Central Park in New York,” Mikiko Ishikawa, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told The Associated Press.

The developers have argued that the two sports facilities cannot be renovated and must be razed.

However, Koshien Stadium near Kobe, built in 1924, has been renovated over the past 15 years, in the same way that Fenway Park (1912) in Boston and Wrigley Field (1914) in Chicago are still viable for two of the players. most famous in MLB. teams.

Meiji Kinenkan, a historic reception hall, dates from 1881 and is still widely used in Jingu Gaien without any appeal following its demolition.

“Development companies are trying to cut down more trees and create a huge industry,” Nakashima said as a leaf was painted on his cheek. “The park has a very long history and needs to be saved.”


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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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