Keep the wrecking ball at bay

Tokyo

I like Tokyo Tower. I will get used to the Tokyo Sky Tree (public opening due May 22), but for now I feel more for the familiar graceful lines and the more humane proportions of the older tower. It is an architectural icon, and an icon of the Tokyo skyline. The Sky Tree profile will quickly become equally iconic, of course.

Though Tokyo Tower will continue broadcasting, I worry that it is not safe in the shadow of its taller brother. In time it could conceivably fall victim to the wrecking ball as the company that owns and operates it — Nippon Television City Corp. — feels the budgetary strain of maintaining an “outdated” property.

Despite the antiquity of its civilization, Japan has multiple precedents for demolishing its architectural heritage to make way for the new, which I rate as an error. Perishable building materials, a disaster-prone environment and a long history of destructive war don’t help the preservationist sentiment, but there still seems to be a native disposition deliberately to replace the old with the new.

Maybe I am unduly alarmist about the grand old Tokyo Tower as well as maudlin about antiques. But when a fiscal challenge does cross the horizon, how will the capitalist corporation that operates it react? I can’t imagine the City of Paris ever abandoning the Eiffel Tower, despite its checkered place in Parisian hearts.

Sadly, I can well imagine Japanese doing just that. It’s just the sort of thing Japanese would do. I have little trust in commercial, capitalist corporations properly managing anything of significant public interest — with human worth more than monetary worth in mind — because their motive is not so much the public good as capital, which by itself is an unbecoming motive.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

grant piper