Nike copping flak over plans to rebrand Shibuya park

By James Hadfield

Most people are too buried in their cell phones to notice the banners. The signs snake alongside the track on the northern approach to Shibuya station, looking a little disheveled now: “Miyashita wa minna no mono [Miyashita belongs to everyone]! Park is Ours!” “No Nike!!!”

This is the frontline of a battle that might once have stirred up some public interest, maybe even indignation. By the time you read this, construction should have started on a new skate park and climbing wall in the sliver of central Shibuya hitherto known as Miyashita Park. The project isn’t part of some enlightened urban redevelopment scheme, but rather the brainchild of a sportswear conglomerate that was once synonymous with the evils of globalization, a sort of Lord Sauron of consumerism. Nike will cover the cost of construction work and get naming rights over the park for the next decade, at a rumored cost of 17 million yen per year.

It’s good news for skaters, less so for brand phobics and the homeless population that Miyashita has been supporting up until now. Recently, a small group of protesters camped out in the north corner of the park, where they did their best to hinder the start of construction, as well as holding film screenings and occasional gigs. Fenced-off areas where tarpaulin shacks once stood have been turned into junk sculptures by a sardonically titled “Artist in Residence.”

“Nike, under the guise of making a ’social welfare donation,’ is converting one of Tokyo’s principle [sic] parks into a purpose-built sports facility that will also serve as a lucrative advertising space,” reads a proclamation on the English-language website “Urbanites often consider public parks an oasis. On weekends they get used for picnics; on weekdays parks offer a place for workers to lunch; and at night, they serve as accommodation for the homeless… We want Miyashita Park to exist not as a consumer-oriented Nike Park, but as a park that defines itself through the practical social support it provides to all of the people who live there.”

Ahem. The rhetoric may be dead-on, but I find it impossible to imagine young couples picnicking in Miyashita, any more than I can picture city officials actively welcoming people to squat there. Squeezed above a parking lot between the train tracks and Meiji Dori, it must be one of the most depressing places in the whole of central Tokyo: damp, gloomy and a good few decades past its prime (assuming it ever had one). Official attempts to give it an overhaul have extended no further than installing a pair of futsal pitches, which makes me wonder why Nike is copping flak for proposing to do something more productive. Surely the Shibuya city office deserves some blame for letting the park languish for so long?

That and a few other things, as it turns out. The other objection raised by protesters — and one which strikes me as a lot more damning — is that the redevelopment project was pushed through with the involvement of only a handful of assembly members, and without any public bidding process. This is very iffy. Public space, however grotty, isn’t the kind of thing that should be relinquished lightly. Consider, too, that Suntory and Dentsu currently pay 80 million yen per year for the naming rights to Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall, formerly known as Shibuya Public Hall. In Miyashita’s case, it seems that a select few officials have sold out a potentially valuable bit of turf, without really asking anyone, and they didn’t even get a good price for it.

The protesters are right to kick up a fuss about this. Their mistake is in assuming that anyone would care. At a recent meeting about the plans, one representative for local store owners recalled that Miyashita Park hadn’t ever been the kind of place that a woman would go to alone. If Nike was the solution, then bring it on.

Part of me wonders if most people here even have a problem with corporate encroachment — assuming they even notice it, of course. Tokyo’s residents are well inured to advertising, so extensively has it permeated every corner of life here. We spend our lives bombarded with adverts, shrouded in them: on billboards, trains, TV screens, sound trucks, balloons. In a country where even the baseball teams are named after their corporate sponsors, what’s the harm of a few extra swooshes?

On second thought, I’m heading to the barricades.

This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (

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Next they can pave over Yoyogi, rename it Louis Vuitton

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thepro. Unless that evil dirtback Ishihara has his way and paves it over for some Olympic facility.

The government here does not care about people, about nature, about parks or about anything else, save for money.

But then again, if the Japanese are too weak to stand up and fight against such things, then the losses are deserved.

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I suggest we all refer to it a 'Adidas Park' or 'Puma Park' or ...

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I'd be all up in arms if it were any actual park. But that groddy little strip of grime along the tracks has been the kind of place you cross the street to avoid for at least 20 years. I don't like the idea of corporate branding of public spaces, but I do sure like the idea of a skate park and a climbing wall or additional futsal courts or anything but what it always has been.

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As taj said, that place is a groddy little strip of grime, but it' been a good back way to Tower records from the station for years.

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A simple question. Why can't Shibuya-ku local government or the Tokyo metropolitan government turn the park into a skate park/ climbing wall area without the need for Nike branding ? At a pretty low cost for concreting, Shibuya-ku could then earn the income from the wall climbers and skaters. There would even be a small opportunity for employment. The argument here is not that Nike wish to turn the park into some kind of marketing wet dream for teenagers, but that local government will take Y17 million a year to turn a public area into Nike's park.

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Clean it up already.

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@northlondon - the simple fact is that Shibuya ku do not have the moeny to spend on this, so have looked for corporate sponsorship to cover the costs. The ongoing annual costs would presumably cover not just maintenance, but also the salaries of people to manage the space (re: your comment on employment).

This place really is an eyesore and anyone developing it can't do a worse job than the Shibuya ku have done up until now. As it is, it can't be called a recreational facility as no one wants to go in there - too dirty. There are a number of homeless people "living" here, and I hope that there is a thought for them in the development.

FYI - Adidas sponsor a futsal park in Shibuya already, ontop of the Tokyu Dept store. Is this any different?

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I cannot understand these protests at all. Currently the park is a blighted hole. It stinks like pee, and is covered in empty beer cans and trash. No one would go there to relax and my wife feels unsafe walking there. In fact it could be argued that in its present condition it is not actually open to the public, but has been taken over by people who feel they have a right to the park.

On the other hand, recently the government has torn down several of the old skateboard parks in Tokyo. Our son who loves skateboarding has no where good to go unless he takes the train atleast an hour away.

While I can understand peoples concern that the park is being named Nike park, the fact that Nike is taking over is for the best.

@northlondon's comments actually the cost of constructing the park will cost several million US dollars to construct, all of which will be paid for by Nike. The fact that Nike will pay Y17million (I agree they probably could have got more) will help with the upkeep and the running of the facilities and will allow the skatepark to be free instead of the public having to pay. Nike for years has paid for and maintained nice basketball courts in Yoyogi Park. Nike does not profit directly from these projects, for them it is all about publicity.

While I disagree about some of Nike's practices and do not buy there shoes, I am happy that they will come in and build this type of thing. In the current economy the Shibuya-ku government probably can use all the finacial help it can get. I am sorry if some homeless people will have to move there homes to Yoyogi park, but as it is I find it hard to even call this place a park.

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the simple fact is that Shibuya ku do not have the moeny to spend on this, so have looked for corporate sponsorship to cover the costs.

Are you serious ? Do you have any idea how much income Shibuya-ku receive in tax revenues, rental for property leasing etc ? Shibuya-ku is one of the richest wards in Japan.

My question is simple. What is going to happen to the Y17 million a year that Shibuya-ku will receive for a public space ?

FYI - Adidas sponsor a futsal park in Shibuya already, ontop of the Tokyu Dept store. Is this any different?

Totally different. Tokyu Department Store is a private enterprise and a privately owned building. Tokyu can do whatever they like on top of their building. The argument here is about a state-owned public space and local government being 'paid-off' by Nike.

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@northlondon's comments actually the cost of constructing the park will cost several million US dollars to construct,

No way. We are talking about a small strip of land that needs concreting over for the skate park and climbing walls erected. That would cost Shibuya-ku nowhere near several million US Dollars.

Maybe ask Shibuya-ku how much it costs them to over-employ the huge number of staff they have at the Ward Office, or how much the Tokyo Metropolitan government have spent on the underground highway construction underneath Yamate-Dori for the last 6 years before we discuss the tidying-up of a little public space in Shibuya being sold off to Nike for their branding.

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hmmm..Adidas got envious and paid a group to protest.

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According to other news articles Nike paid:

Y 150 million (1.7 million US) for naming rights

Y 450 million (5 million US) for renovation of the park

Y 17 million

The park is not that small and it is easy to see how Nike will probably spend US 5 million in renovation. While I wish that Nike's name was not on the park. I am happy they have taken the initiative to come in a renovate the park into a space people can use, instead of its current state. Shibuya ward may be one of the richest in Japan, but US 5 million is still a lot of money that could be spend else where, and the fact is if Nike did not come in, this park would continue to languish in its present state.

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Sounds like a good deal for Tokyo. Better Nike pays than use my tax dollars. I could give a rat's arse what the park is called.

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My argument is with the Ward Office and the Metropolitan Government. Nike can do whatever they hell they like to make even bigger profits. The park is in a state in one of the richest cities in the world (Mr Ishihara). And Mr Ishihara's local government then sell their public space off for a corporate deal instead of using their billions to tidy it up for the local people.

By the way, the US$5 million quote is PR hype from the Nike machine trying to justify the deal. It's a lie.

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Shibuya has little or no history prior to the Meiji era in contrast to most traditional Yamanote and Shitamachi settlements that developed during the Edo period so what's the big deal?

The ward is already a soul-less commercial urban jungle that has no endearing nostalgic qualities to spare. Objecting against Nike's want for its share in the promotional pie here is just flogging a dead horse.

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Nike suck! they dropped Tiger Woods - and all the Nike crap my wife has bought me in the past fell apart within a few uses! Don't allow this, citizens of Shibuya - selling out to a low-budget, low-quality "sports" label!

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@northlondon - yes I am serious, I have a very good idea of the tax income of Shibuya-ku, and an equally strong impression on why they'd never spend the money on a facility that would benefit 12 people per hour.

What exactly is different about Adidas paying Tokyu for naming rights of private space and Nike paying for naming rights of public space?? You say they are different, but not why.

In your humble view, what would be the next best step for this eyesore?

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I suggest we all refer to it a 'Adidas Park' or 'Puma Park' or ...

If I remember rightly Adidas did bid for the park as well. Actually I am not sure why people call it a park as it is mostly the roof of a car park and seriously shabby. I think the only people truly put out are the homeless who will have to find a new park to ruin

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Do the protesters like this crime ridden pothole or what? I understand why they're upset but they don't seem to notice the big elephant standing next to them. They should be outraged that Nike wasn't asked to rebuild this area sooner, if they really cared at all about the area. Instead, they're probably only upset because they don't like Nike getting naming rights.

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And the Nike basketball court in Shibuya was a total waste of space. The surface is sinking, dirty and slippery. Stinking homeless winos everywhere. Moquitos the size of bats sucking your life blood in the summer. No wash facilities. No zone defence played. Correction, no defence at all played. The rims aren't break away. Impossible to find the court. Nice Jump Man pic on center court through.

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Nike get their expensive advertising space, the locals get a clean modern place to play, only the homeless lose but they shouldn't be living in that park in the first place, the local govt should be helping them. The Nike money should build a homeless shelter.

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