The municipalities of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture and neighboring Kitakyushu are set to enact identical ordinances aimed at preserving the landscape of the Kammon Strait separating them.
Shimonoseki, located at the westernmost tip of Honshu, and Kitakyushu, on the northern coast of Kyushu, face each other across the strait.
The Kammon suspension bridge, completed in 1973, links the two cities. They are only about 650 meters from one another at the narrowest point of the strait.
The planned local regulations, tentatively called the Kammon Landscape Ordinance by both sides, marks the first coordinated attempt to protect scenery straddling prefectural boundaries, according to Shimonoseki and Kitakyushu officials.
The ordinance is aimed at designating tourist spots facing the strait such as Retro Town of Kitakyushu’s Moji port, the Aruka port district in Shimonoseki and Hinoyama Park Shimonoseki as “scenic regions.”
It touches on the basic doctrine of preserving the strait’s scenery and defines roles to be played by the municipalities and their citizens and businesses.
To preserve the landscape and prevent eyesores, city officials and business executives will consult on the height and color of buildings to be constructed in the designated districts. However, the ordinance will include no punitive measures for noncompliance.
The two municipalities plan to submit the proposed ordinance to their assemblies during the current fiscal year.
The idea of setting up the ordinance initially emerged over a drinking session among officials of the two cities in November 1997.
Since then, officials of the two cities have held dozens of meetings.
“Everyone recognized that the landscape (of Shimonoseki and Kitakyushu) is wonderful,” an official of Kitakyushu’s construction bureau recalled. “We went back and forth (between the two cities) and talked a number of times on what we could come up with from the vague ideas we had.”
In a ceremony held Aug. 3, 1998, on a ship in the strait, Shimonoseki Mayor Ejima and Kitakyushu Mayor Koichi Sueyoshi signed an agreement on the project — the first accord of its kind concluded by local governments in the country.
The two cities later established a panel of citizens and academics to hammer out a basic plan for preserving the Kammon landscape.
On Feb. 14, Sueyoshi and Ejima signed a joint declaration on the Kammon Landscape Ordinance.
Ejima said the Kammon landscape is a “jointly owned asset” and “citizens of the two cities should join hands to make it more attractive in order to leave it to posterity.”
The chambers of commerce of both cities welcomed the ordinance, saying it is necessary given that Kitakyushu and Shimonoseki jointly oversee the strait.
On the other hand, Kansai Kisen Kaisha, a major tourist shipping firm, was cool toward the plan. “We don’t know what is going to be changed by the ordinance — and how,” an official of the company said.
“We wonder whether the number of tourists will really increase,” a member of the Moji mall cooperative said.
However, Yohei Kondo, a former chief of the planning division of the Shimonoseki city office, stressed the importance of viewing the strait as a collective asset.
“There is the scenery that one sees from either side of the strait, and then there is the landscape on both sides of the channel that can be seen from the sea. They are all indispensable” for the two cities, Kondo said.
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