I’m a mother with two young children living in Kyoto. We are now enjoying the cherry blossom season here. My children and their friends are playing every day at the local Kyoto city park, on land leased from Ryuhonji Temple.
There are many beautiful old trees in this park, which has a unique location within the temple grounds and has been an oasis for everyone in the neighborhood for 60 years.
However, because of the temple’s financial difficulties, it had not renewed the lease contract with the Kyoto Municipal Government as of the end of March and this park is going to close down very soon. A development company is going to build a four-story day care center there. They are going to cut down 26 big trees and demolish some of the old temple buildings.
We are losing a beautiful park in this historical area and we were only informed about this issue by the city at the first public meeting on March 10 — just three weeks before the park was going to close. We were all very shocked.
Kyoto is a well-known destination for tourists from all over the world because of its historical buildings. Yes, there are a lot of old historical temples, shrines and houses all around Kyoto, but there is another side to it. One example is Shimogamo Shrine, a World Cultural Heritage site. Despite its more than 2,000-year history and because of its financial situation, it is going to lease a part of the site to a developer to build a three-story apartment building.
Another example is Nijo Castle. There is a lot of concern that it is planning to cut down trees to build a new parking lot next to the castle complex.
Similar things are happening all around Kyoto. We are losing this beautiful historical cityscape.
After a strong public protest at the first public meeting on March 10, the municipal government decided to raise its offer to continue leasing the park — to equal that of the developer. However, the temple has insisted on continuing with the current contract with the developer. At a second meeting on March 29, one of the priests from the temple clearly said, “We are only looking at the most profitable option.”
To protect our park, neighborhood residents have formed a group and are working hard every day since the park could close down at any time and construction will start. However, we still believe that our human power can change the situation.
Please help us to save this beautiful park!
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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.
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