Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto calls for halt to Jingu redevelopment plan
TOKYO – Renowned Japanese composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto has sent a letter to Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike voicing opposition to a redevelopment plan that would see two historic sports venues demolished and hundreds of trees torn out, saying, “the trees should not be sacrificed.”
“Each person has a vision of where they want to live, and this vision is shared to shape the city,” the 71-year-old, who is battling stage IV cancer, said in a recent written interview with Kyodo News.
The Tokyo metropolitan government last month approved a plan to demolish and rebuild Jingu Stadium and Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, as well as cut down hundreds of trees, as part of a new high-rise complex to be completed in 2036.
Despite public concern over the felling of trees in one of the city’s greenest neighborhoods, and the impact on the nearby landmark Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue, the project officially commenced on March 22.
In a letter sent to Koike earlier this month, Sakamoto, who founded and leads the forest conservation organization More Trees, called for the project to be suspended and reviewed, saying “We should not sacrifice the precious trees of Jingu that our ancestors spent 100 years protecting and nurturing just for quick economic gain.”
Sakamoto said he felt inspired to write the letter by those who protested against the redevelopment just before it was granted approval by the metropolitan government. “As a citizen, I could not remain silent,” he said.
Later at a press conference, Koike suggested sending letters to business operators as well, but Sakamoto said that while he would “particularly like Meiji Jingu shrine, which owns the land, to reconsider the plan,” it is “first necessary to review the pros and cons of development for each area based on the vision of urban planning.”
“Shouldn’t it be made common knowledge to the citizens of Tokyo what kind of vision the governor has for the city’s urban planning?” he added.
The composer, who has spent more time in Tokyo as a result of his ongoing treatment, said he feels nostalgic when visiting the Jingu Gaien area.
Sakamoto lamented that he could not do more to “spread the word or take action beyond sending letters,” as his “energy and physical strength have both declined to the point where it is difficult to even produce music.”
The Oscar- and Grammy-winning pianist revealed in June 2022 that he was battling stage IV cancer, after previously announcing he had throat cancer in 2014 and rectal cancer in 2021.