Who cares for national treasures?

Regarding the Dec. 8 article “In era of skyscrapers, group lobbies to keep Tokyo’s traditional buildings“: Sumiko Enbutsu should be considered a national living treasure! She understands that the soul of a nation is in its architectural heritage. To tear down a landmark historical building to make room for a cold glass-and-steel skyscraper is to tear away at the very heart of a nation’s culture. I still recall the ludicrous plan to construct a parking lot under the age-old Shinobazu Pond in the Ueno area of Tokyo some years ago.

Much of London and Tokyo were destroyed during World War II. Yet, while London did much to restore and preserve culturally important buildings damaged in Luftwaffe bombing raids, Tokyo took an entirely different approach after the war: It simply tore down many of the bomb-damaged buildings. What the U.S. bombing strategy failed to do during the war, Japan’s construction ministry set about doing after the war — in the name of “progress” and profit. Sadly, even the historical city of Kyoto has been ravaged.

The entire city of Kyoto should have been declared a national heritage site after the war and efforts made to preserve its historical beauty. Instead, the pachinko parlor industry and high-rise hotels marred the city’s beauty, along with factories and multilane expressways. What a serene setting Kyoto must have offered the world-weary traveler in 1946. It’s mostly gone now.

Why is it that private citizens must lead the effort to preserve landmark buildings such as Tokyo Station? Why hasn’t the Tokyo city government shown greater interest in doing so? The story of the lost roofing tiles from the station is a love story in itself. Sumiko Enbutsu is a remarkable woman. I would like to thank her for caring. Her preservation efforts will delight future generations.

robert mckinney
otaru, hokkaido

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.