Tokyo — For nearly 100 years, the Meiji Jingu Stadium in central Tokyo has hosted many important events. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig performed there on their barnstorming tour, novelist Haruki Murakami was inspired by a trip to the stadium to write his first novel, and just last year, the Yakult Swallows’ Munetaka Murakami wrote a record-breaking I hit a home run into the stadium stands. .
However, in an ambitious redevelopment plan, the stadium will be demolished and replaced with modern facilities. The plan was created out of concern for fans of baseball history, fans of Japanese rugby history, and how the various projects will affect the Jingu Gaien district, a historic green space featuring 100-year-old trees. has come under intense scrutiny from various groups, including conservationists who It was provided by Eiichi Shibusawa, a businessman called the father of Japanese capitalism.
“It’s like building a skyscraper in the middle of New York’s Central Park,” said Mikiko Ishikawa, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo. told the Associated Press of the redevelopment plan. “Tokyo will lose its soul”
Part of its soul lies at Meiji Jingu, Japan’s second oldest ballpark after Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya. This ballpark is Nippon Professional Baseball’s answer to Major League Baseball’s Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The redevelopment plan called for the gradual demolition of the Meiji Jingu Stadium and neighboring venue Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, which opened in 1947 and was used as a soccer venue for the 1964 Summer Olympics. The new version of the two stadiums will switch places.
The goal of this project is to modernize the various facilities involved and create a better environment for traveling between stadiums. It is hoped that an open space will be created and expanded to serve as a tourist hub and allow people to enjoy the various sporting events held there.The entire project, including the skyscraper and hotel, It is scheduled to be completed by 2036.
At that point, it will be just over 100 years since the lineup of MLB stars played five games at Meiji Jingu during their 1934 tour of Japan. The ripples of that tour can still be felt, and the Japanese team put together to face the Americans formed the Yomiuri Giants, the team that dominates NPB.
Forty-four years later, while drinking beer in the bleachers of a stadium, Haruki Murakami was so struck by the “satisfying sound of a bat hitting a ball” that on his way home he bought a pen and paper and immediately I started writing a novel in “Listen to the song of the wind”
In 2022, Munetaka Murakami (unrelated to Haruki) made history, hitting his 56th home run of the year at the park, breaking Sadaharu Oh’s single-season record for a Japanese player.
Beyond the stadium’s history, the plans have raised concerns because the move will cause the new baseball field to operate adjacent to a row of 100-year-old ginkgo trees celebrated at the annual fall festival.
The Shin-Jingu Gaien project site promises to “protect the rows of ginkgo trees and pass on to future generations the beautiful scenery overlooking the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery.”
However, Japan’s ICOMOS National Committee, which consists of a panel of experts involved in cultural heritage protection, said the plan did not adequately address the tree line and did not provide scientific data on the issue. says.
Rochelle Kopp, a management consultant who works with Japanese companies, organized a petition to reconsider the development of Meiji Shrine, along with other activists concerned about how the plans would affect trees. are partnered.
“The roots are branching all the way to the top of the tree, which means it’s branching pretty far,” Kopp said of the tree. “Installing this wall in the stadium will drive piles up to 40 meters high, according to tree experts, which will surely damage the rest of the trees.”
In response to criticism, developers have adjusted plans to cut fewer trees, but activists say the tree’s complex root system can still be compromised, and the amount of sunlight the tree receives is affected by the new environment. building.
I have other concerns about the plan.
American author and journalist Robert Whiting, who has lived in Japan for most of the past 50 years and has written several books on Japanese culture, first visited Meiji Jingu Stadium in the 1960s. he wrote“There were no seats in the outfield, so we sat on the slopes of the lawn to watch the game, spread out blankets, drink beer, and watch the sky between innings.
Whiting organized his own petition against the development due to concerns about heritage loss, potential damage to existing trees, and the overall environmental impact of the project.
“It will be an uncomfortable experience for fans,” he said.
The issues surrounding the redevelopment project are complex, but some critics focus solely on losing the experience of watching a match at a venue with a lot of history.
Lily Friedman is a study abroad student at Temple University who grew up a Yankees fan in New York. She said she became an avid fan of Japanese baseball, and at Meiji Jingu Stadium she “loves history and being outside,” she said.
“From a Yankees fan standpoint, I don’t know anyone who didn’t prefer the old Yankee stadium to the new one.” I think there’s something to be said for keeping it has a really special history, especially since it’s an endangered species now.”