The Tokyo government last February approved a 349 billion yen city plan – an equivalent of 2.2 billion euros – for the redevelopment of the Meiji Jingu Gaien, the famous “eternal garden” of the Meiji Shrine – one of the Japanese capital’s most beloved parks.
The project, which will take more than a decade to complete, includes the demolition and reconstruction of the old rugby and baseball stadiums.
A new hotel near the latter stadium will flank a pair of nearly 200-meter-high skyscrapers containing offices and luxury apartments, as well as a second 80-meter-high tower. Many trees will be cut down to make way for the new configuration of the area.
Located in the heart of Tokyo, the new district lies east of Meiji Shrineand and occupies a total area of about 28.4 hectares. Its centerpiece, however, is Ginkgo Avenue, a promenade lined with ginkgo trees, many of which are more than a century old.
Work officially began in March, with a confirmed commitment from the developers to protect the iconic row of ginkgo trees and to “preserve and enhance” the greenery around the proposed sports hub. But despite the assurances, the urban development plan has sparked public anger, demonstrations and even lawsuits from outraged Tokyo residents.
Petitions to block the plans have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures. Activists argue that cutting down trees makes no sense in a city that has few green spaces and where the heat island effect is already a major concern, thus demanding that existing buildings be renovated rather than demolished and that all trees be spared.
Opening image: Meiji Jingu Gaien. Courtesy Mitsui Fudosan