An urban gem that deserves reassessment

I don’t know if any other Japan Times readers have recently been to the sides of the Kanda and Zenpukuji rivers below Omiya Hachiman Shrine, but it is quite shocking what civil engineers are doing to the environment in the middle of Tokyo.

I just thought I’d let people know that a small grass-roots movement has started among local residents and that, on Friday, we petitioned the Third Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Construction Department to reassess the effects of its flood-control project.

Omiya Hachiman Shrine, in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, last year celebrated 950 years of existence. It’s thanks to this sacred ground that magnificent trees — some of them rare — have kept this part of the Zenpukuji River lush. However, flooding has occurred once every decade or so, and for this, the Metropolitan Government has ordered extensive construction to rectify the problem.

Since last year, construction to deepen the Zenpukuji has reached areas that are home, at least part of the year, to the kingfisher and many other wild birds. The project also threatens the existence of hundreds of sakura and other ancient trees that provide shade and beauty beside the river.

This colossal project was OK’d years before the Tohoku earthquake and the announcement that Tokyo would be the site of the 2020 Olympics. Our petition simply asks that the Tokyo government:

Assess the efficacy of construction done so far downriver.

Study the environmental impact on the area’s wildlife.

Consider excluding “Wadabori Park” from further destruction because of the diversity of wildlife nurtured there by the pond, river and trees together.

Residents must be protected from flooding, but there must be more cost-effective and less damaging ways to continue with this construction. Once the birds lose this environment, they are never coming back.

maya moore

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.

  • disqus_gor69pDipt

    As we suffer in temps exceeding 30C, please reassess the need to cut down beautiful trees that provide much needed shade for us and refuge for our birds. With all the brilliant minds in our community, let’s craft a solution to the flooding that avoids destroying mature shade trees that will take years to grow back, as well as drive away the birds that pollinate plants, disperse seeds, and nurture the earth and our souls.

  • keratomileusis

    Japan is a country full of contradictions, and this is yet another example. To wit, there are no paper towels in restrooms except in posh locations, but buy one ¥200 slice of cake and it gets wrapped well enough to send to the moon.

    Alex Kerr has written extensively on the Japanese penchant to raze the countryside with concrete, yet maintain artificial oases that you have to pay to enter and enjoy nature. And let’s not even get into the roadside litter and cigarette butts problems.

    The reality, as Alex Kerr has pointed out, is that big contruction companies are making money out of this. If I were a Japanese citizen, I would want the government to explain how the debt ratio got to 200% before raising the consumption tax any further. Fund pensions? I doubt it…