Tokyo resident Hiroshi Ono was shocked when he heard about plans to redevelop Meiji Jingu Gaien, the famous Meiji Shrine’s “outer garden,” which serves as one of the Japanese capital’s most beloved parks.
“The Jingu Gaien is ours — and our kids’ — cultural inheritance,” he told CNN last month at a rally organized to oppose the project. “Pushing through a redevelopment plan without properly consulting citizens is unfair. It felt like the decision was made behind closed doors.”
Located in the heart of Tokyo, the landscaped district lies just east of the Meiji Shrine, one of the Shinto religion’s most important sites. Completed in 1926, it was built exclusively with public donations and volunteer labor to commemorate Emperor Meiji, great-grandfather of the current Emperor Naruhito. It is also home to the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, the sport’s spiritual home in Japan, and a baseball stadium where Babe Ruth famously played in 1934.
Its centerpiece, however, is the Ginkgo Avenue, a promenade lined with ginkgo trees, many over a century old, which campaigners argue are now at risk.