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 yr Munetaka Murakami of the Yakult Swallows hit a record-breaking residence run into the stadium’s stands. .

An formidable redevelopment plan, nevertheless, would have the stadium razed and changed with a contemporary facility. The plan has come beneath intense scrutiny from disparate teams that embody followers of baseball historical past, followers of the nation’s rugby historical past and conservationists who’re involved about how the assorted initiatives would have an effect on the Jingu Gaien district, a historic inexperienced house that options century-old bushes. Provided by the industrialist Shibusawa Eiichi, identified by some as the daddy of Japanese capitalism.

“This is like constructing skyscrapers in the course of Central Park in New York,” Mikiko Ishikawa, an emeritus professor on the University of Tokyo, advised 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 through the 1964 Summer Olympics, could be demolished in phases. The new variations of the 2 stadiums would swap areas.

The aim of the venture is to modernize the assorted amenities concerned, that are far old-fashioned, and to create a greater atmosphere for shifting between the stadiums. Open areas could be created and enlarged and the hope is that it will be a hub for tourism and for folks to benefit from the numerous sporting occasions that will be held there. The complete venture, which incorporates skyscrapers and a lodge, is scheduled to be accomplished by 2036.

At that time it is going to 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 staff compiled to tackle the Americans went on to kind the Yomiuri Giants, a staff that will 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 method 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 yr 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 bushes which might be celebrated with an annual fall pageant.

The New Jingu Gaien planning web site guarantees to “protect the 4 rows of ginkgo bushes and cross on to future generations the attractive surroundings with a superb view of the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery.”

But the Japanese ICOMOS National Committee, which consists of a panel of consultants concerned in cultural heritage preservation, says the plan doesn’t correctly handle the tree line nor provide scientific knowledge in regards to the challenge.

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 bushes.

“The roots have branches out so far as the highest of the tree, which implies they’re branching out fairly far,” Kopp stated of the bushes. “Tree consultants have stated, should 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 bushes to be felled, however activists have stated that the bushes’ complicated root methods might nonetheless be compromised and that the quantity of daylight the bushes obtain can be affected by the brand new surrounding. buildings.

There are different issues in regards to the plans as nicely.

Robert Whiting, an American writer and journalist who has lived in Japan for a lot 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 could possibly 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 in opposition to the event due to issues in regards to the lack of heritage, the potential harm to the present bushes and the general environmental impression of the venture.

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

While the problems surrounding the redevelopment venture are complicated, 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 pupil on a examine overseas program, grew up a Yankees fan in New York. She stated she has grow to be a passionate fan of Japanese baseball and that she “loves the historical past and being outdoors” at Meiji Jingu, which evokes the “identical feeling as after I used to go to the previous Yankee Stadium.”

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

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