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Petition against felling trees in historic Tokyo park area

TOKYO (AFP) – Campaigners filed a fresh petition with almost 225,000 signatures yesterday against plans to fell large numbers of trees and tear down a historic baseball stadium in a rare green area of central Tokyo, Japan.

Lush with trees donated to honour Emperor Meiji a century ago, Meiji Jingu Gaien offers respite and shade – Japan saw its hottest recorded summer this year – in one of the world’s biggest urban areas.

The park area is also home to Jingu Stadium where United States baseball star Babe Ruth wowed spectators in 1934 and where celebrated Japanese author Haruki Murakami said he was inspired to become a writer.

Also on the site is a stadium dubbed the spiritual home of Japanese rugby.

But the redevelopment project, due to start this month, will see the sports facilities razed and rebuilt alongside several new high-rises to add to Tokyo’s thicket of tall buildings.

According to the petition submitted yesterday to the government, 1,000 trees will be cut down.

The new baseball stadium will also endanger a boulevard of ginkgo trees, just six metres away, whose stunning autumn leaves attract huge crowds, campaigners said.

“These are all huge beautiful trees,” said a management consultant who organised the petition Rochelle Kopp – one of several – and who is also involved in a lawsuit against the project.

“The online petition numbers continue to grow because the more members of the public learn the details of the plan, the more people are unhappy about this plan to cram as many skyscrapers as possible into a small space and forever change a beloved landscape,” Kopp
told AFP.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) this month put the number of trees in danger at around 3,000 in a “heritage alert” issued by the advisory body to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The redevelopment “will lead to the complete destruction of the urban forest that has been formed and nurtured over the past 100 years”, ICOMOS said.

People take part in a protest against the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s redevelopment project for the Meiji Jingu Gaien district in Tokyo, Japan. PHOTO: AFP