Battles Erupt Over Japan’s Plan to Demolish Meiji Jingu Stadium

TOKYO — Over a span of almost 100 years, Meiji Jingu Stadium in central Tokyo has been the scene of quite a few vital occasions. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig performed there on a barnstorming tour, the novelist Haruki Murakami was impressed by a visit to the stadium to write his first novel and simply final 12 months Munetaka Murakami of the Yakult Swallows hit a record-breaking residence run into the stadium’s stands. .

An formidable redevelopment plan, nonetheless, would have the stadium razed and changed with a contemporary facility. The plan has come below intense scrutiny from disparate teams that embrace followers of baseball historical past, followers of the nation’s rugby historical past and conservationists who’re involved about how the varied tasks would have an effect on the Jingu Gaien district, a historic inexperienced area that options century-old timber. Provided by the industrialist Shibusawa Eiichi, recognized by some as the daddy of Japanese capitalism.

“This is like constructing skyscrapers in the midst of Central Park in New York,” Mikiko Ishikawa, an emeritus professor on the University of Tokyo, instructed The Associated Press of the redevelopment plan. “Tokyo would lose its soul.”

Part of that soul lies in Meiji Jingu, Japan’s second-oldest baseball stadium to Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya. The ballparks are Nippon Professional Baseball’s reply to Major League Baseball’s Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago.

In the redevelopment plan, Meiji Jingu and a neighboring venue, the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, which opened in 1947 and was used as a soccer venue in the course of the 1964 Summer Olympics, can be demolished in phases. The new variations of the 2 stadiums would swap places.

The purpose of the mission is to modernize the varied amenities concerned, that are far old-fashioned, and to create a greater surroundings for transferring between the stadiums. Open areas can be created and enlarged and the hope is that it might be a hub for tourism and for folks to benefit from the varied sporting occasions that may be held there. The whole mission, which incorporates skyscrapers and a lodge, is scheduled to be accomplished by 2036.

At that time it should have been simply over 100 years since a lineup of MLB stars performed 5 video games at Meiji Jingu throughout a tour of Japan in 1934. Ruth placed on a present by hitting 13 residence runs, 5 of them in Meiji Jingu. The ripples of that tour are nonetheless felt, because the Japanese group compiled to tackle the Americans went on to type the Yomiuri Giants, a group that may dominate NPB.

Forty-four years later, Haruki Murakami was within the stadium’s bleachers having a beer when he was so impressed by “the satisfying crack when the bat met the ball” that he bought a pen and paper on his manner residence and instantly started writing the novel. “Hear the Wind Sing.”

In 2022, it was Munetaka Murakami (no relation to Haruki) who took a flip making historical past, slugging his 56th homer of the 12 months on the park and breaking Sadaharu Oh’s single-season file for a Japanese-born participant.

Beyond the stadium’s historical past, the plans have raised issues as a result of the relocations would have the brand new baseball stadium run adjoining to a notable avenue of century-old ginkgo timber which are celebrated with an annual fall competition.

The New Jingu Gaien planning web site guarantees to “protect the 4 rows of ginkgo timber and move on to future generations the gorgeous surroundings with a great view of the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery.”

But the Japanese ICOMOS National Committee, which consists of a panel of specialists concerned in cultural heritage preservation, says the plan doesn’t correctly tackle the tree line nor provide scientific knowledge concerning the situation.

Rochelle Kopp, a administration guide who works with Japanese companies, has organized a petition to rethink the Meiji Jingu growth, and has partnered with different activists who’re involved about how the plans will have an effect on the timber.

“The roots have branches out so far as the highest of the tree, which suggests they’re branching out fairly far,” Kopp stated of the timber. “Tree specialists have stated, in case you put this wall on the stadium, which goes to have piling going 40 meters into the bottom, that’s going to, for certain, harm the remainder of the tree.”

In response to the criticisms, the builders have adjusted the plan for fewer timber to be felled, however activists have stated that the timber’ advanced root programs might nonetheless be compromised and that the quantity of daylight the timber obtain can be affected by the brand new surrounding. buildings.

There are different issues concerning the plans as nicely.

Robert Whiting, an American creator and journalist who has lived in Japan for many of the final 50 years and has written a number of books on Japanese tradition, first visited Meiji Jingu within the Nineteen Sixties, he wrote, “when there have been no seats within the outfield, only a grassy slope the place you may sit and watch the sport, unfold out a blanket, drink beer and take a look at the sky between innings.”

Whiting has organized his personal petition towards the event due to issues concerning the lack of heritage, the potential harm to the present timber and the general environmental affect of the mission.

“It’s going to make for a much less nice expertise for followers,” he stated.

While the problems surrounding the redevelopment mission are advanced, some detractors are merely centered on dropping the expertise of seeing video games in a venue with a lot historical past.

Lilli Friedman, a Temple University scholar on a research overseas program, grew up a Yankees fan in New York. She stated she has change into a passionate fan of Japanese baseball and that she “loves the historical past and being exterior” at Meiji Jingu, which evokes the “similar feeling as once I used to go to the previous Yankee Stadium.”

“Coming from a Yankees fan standpoint, I do not know anybody who did not choose the previous Yankee Stadium to the brand new one,” Friedman stated. “I believe there’s one thing to be stated for even when it isn’t the flashiest, latest stadium, preserving an surroundings that individuals actually join to, and have recollections of, has a very particular historical past particularly as a result of it is such an endangered species now.”

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