The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has elected to press forward with controversial plans to redevelop a historic site housing Meiji Jingu Stadium and Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium.
The project has encountered stiff opposition, but it was announced today (Friday) that it will proceed. Located in the Shinjuku ward of the Japanese capital, Meiji Jingu Stadium opened in 1926 and is one of the few remaining ballparks where New York Yankees legend Babe Ruth played.
The stadium, along with the home of the Japanese rugby union team, is set to be torn down and rebuilt as part of a wide-ranging development that will include skyscrapers and hotels.
Meiji Jingu Stadium has a capacity of around 37,000 and currently serves as the home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The Government project, which will also result in the removal of trees donated to honour Emperor Meiji, has united citizens in opposition with petitions including tens of thousands of signatures being submitted to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and other officials.
Tomoko Abe, an opposition lawmaker who was part of a cross-party group against the development, called today’s approval “shameful”. “Lots of people are strongly opposed and the Tokyo government hasn’t faced up to that sincerely, which is very disappointing and a big problem,” she told the AFP news agency.
The district housing the stadia was developed a century ago as a “garden of relaxation and tranquillity”. A new stadium will be built next to the famed gingko tree avenue that draws huge crowds for its stunning autumn colours.
Earlier this week, Koike defended the project and said those trees would not be cut down. However, environmentalists claim the very nature of the venture will lead to the demise of the trees. Koike said the number of trees and green spaces in the area will increase after redevelopment, adding that she hopes and expects “the area will continue to be cherished by the citizens of Tokyo”.
Opposition to the project has intensified in recent weeks, with former Japan international Tsuyoshi Hirao also starting a petition to save Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, which will be replaced by a covered stadium with an artificial pitch.
Abe added: “They say they’re building a sports cluster that everyone can enjoy, but some people say it won’t be like that. Even so, they still go ahead with it.”