Japan Jingu Gaien Protest
People form a human chain outside of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Tokyo on on Sunday. Photo: AP/Mari Yamaguchi

Protesters demand that Japan save trees by revising design plan for popular Tokyo park


Protesters in Tokyo formed a human chain Sunday to demand the government save thousands of trees by revising its plan to redevelop a popular downtown park.

Demonstrators, many wearing green shirts and holding up signs saying, “Save Jingu Gaien," demanded the Education Ministry take action even though the landowner is one of its agencies.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike approved the plan in February, a move that would allow developers — real estate company Mitsui Fudosan, Meiji Jingu shrine, Itochu Corp. and the ministry-affiliate Japan Sports Council — to build a pair of 200-meter (650-foot) skyscrapers and an 80-meter (260-foot) tower.

That would require cutting down nearly 3,000 trees at Jingu Gaien, one of Tokyo's most historic and beloved green areas. The plan would also raze and rebuild a historic baseball stadium where Babe Ruth played and change a rugby field to one with artificial grass.

Also at stake are the well-known 150 gingko trees lining a century-old promenade built to commemorate Emperor Meiji, the great-grandfather of Emperor Naruhito. Critics and environmental activists say the gingko trees will be under threat from any construction right next to them.

“I just had to come and do something to stop tree-cutting that could start this month,” said Nahoko Shirakawa, holding a handmade sign. “I cannot just sit around and see the demise of 100-year-old gingko trees.”

Rochelle Kopp, a movement leader who operates a Tokyo management consulting company, said the ministry should protect the Gaien as a natural cultural heritage site. She said the ministry also should designate the area as a scenic site as a way of protecting it.

Sunday’s protest came after a United Nations-affiliated conservancy issued a “heritage alert” for Tokyo's Gaien area. A senior member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, said Friday that the plan goes against a global fight against climate change and raised questions of transparency around the decision-making process.

“ICOMOS regards this as an irreversible destruction of cultural heritage,” Elizabeth Brabec, head of the organization's International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscape, told a news conference.

“Beyond that," she added, the plan is "an unacceptable loss of open space and mature heritage trees at a time when the world responds to climate change (and) recognizes the critical importance of maintaining urban open spaces and all parts of the urban forest.”

Brabec noted that some of the trees are 50-100 years old. She said the heritage they represent can never be replaced with the planting of new trees. “It is virtually unheard-of for a major city such as Tokyo to take some of its urban parkland, which is in very short supply, and convert it to development."

Work to cut down the trees could begin later this month.

Koike told reporters Friday that her government has urged the developers to revise the plan before they start cutting down the trees. She said the revision they promised in January has not been submitted.

ICOMOS is asking Koike's Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the developers to respond to its alert by Oct. 10.

Developers have argued that the Jingu baseball stadium and rugby venue cannot be renovated and must be razed. The organization also urges Meiji Jingu to withdraw from the redevelopment project, saying the Jingu Gaien was created by citizens who volunteered to provide labor to make the park.

The protests led by civil groups have drawn mounting support not only from area residents but also from prominent people, including Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and dozens of academics, writers and architects. A number lawsuits have also been filed in a bid to stop the redevelopment.

“I just cannot tolerate the loss of the wonderfully designed baseball stadium,” said a nursery teacher Ayako Kato, a fan of the Yakult Swallows, whose home turf is Jingu Stadium. “We need to save not only the stadium (but also) our culture that comes with watching the baseball here.”

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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That protest will have no effect, those area will be filled with skyscraper .

-13 ( +7 / -20 )

Lining up, holding hands in front of some trees won’t accomplish anything. You need to make it uncomfortable for Keiko and the developers. Protest outside their offices, follow them around and your displeasure known. Make some noise!

13 ( +21 / -8 )

Zero Comments? Why? Where are the readers of Japan today? ALL readers not only in Japan should protest against the slaughter of trees. I, a foreigner am helping to start the ball rolling. Trees make us healthy. It is a crime to murder a tree.

-5 ( +14 / -19 )

It's almost criminal to cut down 3000 trees in Tokyo, one of the desist population zones on earth.

Good luck protesting against the corporate world though....agree with commentator above, action should embarrass the big wigs behind this decision to cull trees.

Certainly cant claim any high ground as an Australian in this debate...our record in deforestation is appalling.

Recently the city of Sydney removed 100 year old Moreton Bay fig trees lining a road that were planted to commemorate the sacrifice of diggers {Aussie soldiers } in WW1.

Widening the road for a new tram line was the reason.

Embarrassed to be a human sometimes.

13 ( +21 / -8 )

"densest population zones " I meant.

"Desist " in removing the trees

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The land of SDGs-pin wearing salarymen is really taking a massive L on environmental issues.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

Let’s see the common person versus Mitsubishi…….

10 ( +10 / -0 )

That this is even an issue in 2023 is shameful.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Goodo lucku

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Maybe if they cut all the trees down in Tokyo people will wake up and go move back out into the heartland to raise families there. That would save the country.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

A place for the people to hang around and enjoy themselves without spending a single-yen ? RAZE IT!

2 ( +9 / -7 )

As a non-Japanese, nothing I can do.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

They recently razed half a park near my house to make way for a new road that was planned decades ago and, with a declining population and car ownership in our area, isn’t needed. Its drastically reduced the number of trees in our area and just made it a grayer, bleaker place. I 100% support these protesters.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Cutting down 3000 Mature Trees in Tokio?

No! NO !! NO !!! NO !!!! NO !!!!! NO !!!!!! NO!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NO Are there no more Japanese people in Japan?

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

Trees are ornaments of earth and main source of oxygen

8 ( +9 / -1 )

What an absolutely insane, and immoral decision. To totally erase 3,000 trees in Japans capital city, which is already awash with high rises etc...is being done for money and profit, no other reason. I am sure there must be a 100 or more places to build on if they are really necessary.....which I honestly doubt. Property developers and builders and designers, not forgetting local officials, will all gain from this scheme. But the people, no, they do not matter.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Time to say no to developers and more concrete. These guys get my full support, even if they ultimately lose! Great to see Japanese protesting and bucking th stereotype of being a robot. (Well some of them who actually care).

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Truly awful that such a lovely, and historic, area of greenery should be destroyed to make way for yet more buildings. Tokyo has enough buildings; we really don't need any more.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike approved the plan in February

I remember Koike saying she would address the issue of Tokyo being a heat island during her election campaign. This is the exact opposite.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

As a non-Japanese, nothing I can do.

Sadly, you are absolutely right. There have been so many trees cut down in my area of Tokyo recently but none of the local people care about it, and certainly no one here is interested in the opinion of someone who is not Japanese and doesn't look and sound Japanese.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Just like the Americans, the Japanese are owned and controlled by their big domestic corporations. Their passive, polite nature is walked upon by the likes of Mitsubishi Estate, Mitsui, Sumitomo, Hulic, Nomura, etc. The gov't is 100% on board with the arrangement and does nothing but pay lipservice to these injustices. Cutting down thousands of trees in a city with a severe lack of green spaces, only to put more concrete, steel and pavement... and the gov't wants people to care about climate change or their "green agenda"? What a joke. Tokyo is less and less interesting every year since I've been living there in the early 2000s. I now only view it as a place of work and have no intention to live there with my family. I will choose somewhere far away that is greener for them to live.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What an atrocious decision. Criminal. Check the people who allowed its bank accounts.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Trees are the lungs of the earth. They provide shelter for animals, a habitat, shade and respite from concrete. They lift our spirits through the four seasons.

May these protestors increase and make their views loud and clear to the authorities. As the environment heats up, mother earth is crying out for our help.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Depressing, behind my house there was a big edo-taisho samurai clan villa with a city block worth of greenery. The garden had 130 types of plants, they were all cut down and the historical buildings demolished and now we wait for a massive ugly condo to be built. My house was extremely hot and difficult to cool this year because all the shade from the trees has now disappeared. I hope the protesters succeed, but i doubt they will since money easily corrupts.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Seems like sacrilege that the urban- planners can even be considering the loss of such a valuable amenity, a small green sanctuary in the concrete-jungle. It's one of my favourite cut-through walks down to Shinjuku Gyoen.

Koike should take a trip to London to see how they preserve the green environments of their parks and opens spaces there, she would learn a lot - these places are the living, breathing lungs of a great city.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

by revising its plan to redevelop a popular downtown park.

Gaien Jingu is not really downtown is it?

That would require cutting down nearly 3,000 trees at Jingu Gaien,

The plan is to plant 5000 trees so there’s a net gain of 2000 trees.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Trees aside, how are they able to take a public park and allow come private company to build an office building there?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

MADNESS! That park is not only visited by hundreds of thousands of Japanese year after year but tourists from around the world.

Not only that, but those trees are also desperately needed with Japan heating up year after year. Japan should be leading the way not to destroy the earth for another concrete building and or arena when he has plenty of both in this country but instead promote the need to save precious trees like the ones they are permitting to be destroyed.

I too am only a foreigner; however, I do love this country and because I love this country, I am going to speak up in support of all these people who took the time to make a stance which is rare.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Transplant them to another place...

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Once trees are cut in cities, they are never replaced, the concrete stays.

As a non-Japanese, nothing I can do

You can send a letter to the Tokyo government to protest. If you are a fiscal resident, you have the right to know how your taxes are used and send your opinion. It might not be taken into account for sure, but if it is well written in Japanese, someone will look at

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike approved the plan in February, a move that would allow developers — real estate company Mitsui Fudosan, Meiji Jingu shrine, Itochu Corp. and the ministry-affiliate Japan Sports Council — to build a pair of 200-meter (650-foot) skyscrapers and an 80-meter (260-foot) tower.

These are the culprits who do not give a S... about the people and the benefits of having these trees in Tokyo. What they want is money, and the more the better, and I wonder if the govenor is in on that too.......any bets?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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