Author Haruki Murakami says he is strongly opposed to a redevelopment of a beloved historic Tokyo park district that would remove his favorite jogging path and tear down the nearly century-old ballpark that inspired him to become a novelist .
The plan approved earlier this year by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to place skyscrapers and new stadiums in the heart of the green Jingu Gaien district has become increasingly controversial. It is opposed by fans of baseball and rugby history, as well as conservationists and civic groups who say the project has moved forward without transparency, proper environmental assessment or explanation to neighbors.
The baseball stadium and a neighboring rugby stadium used for soccer during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics would be demolished under the plan, and hundreds of trees would be removed from what has been a Tokyo park district for centuries. When completed, the new stadiums will be surrounded by 650-foot (200-meter)-tall office buildings in a commercial complex.
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«I strongly oppose the Jingu Gaien redevelopment plan,» Murakami said on his Sunday radio show. «Please leave that nice green jogging track and lovely Jingu Stadium as it is. Once something is destroyed, it can never be restored.»
Murakami used to sit just beyond the garden fence, stretch out with a beer to watch the game on a grassy slope. He remembers the moment he decided to become a novelist: in the early afternoon of April 1, 1978, when Yakult Swallows’ then-perennial loser, unknown American Dave Hilton, hit a clean double to left field and «the satisfying snap when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium,» he wrote in his 2007 memoir, «What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.»
On the way home, he bought a fountain pen and began to write. Her first novel, «Hear the Wind Sing,» was finished about six months later.
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Murakami said the Gaien circular jogging track, which is just over 1 kilometer (1,093 yards) long and has a mark every 100 meters (yards), is his favorite area to run. During the radio show, he described «my secret, pleasant memory» of regularly passing another runner in the opposite direction, without ever speaking.
Earlier over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered outside the designated redevelopment area in Tokyo for a protest.
The Jingu Gaien dispute comes two years after the Tokyo Olympics, which involved several newly built stadiums and has since been marred by bribery scandals.
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Koike said the metropolitan government has properly handled the environmental assessment and has urged the companies involved to share information with the public about the redevelopment.
The project will take 13 years to complete, but minor construction has already begun.
The first court hearing on a lawsuit to suspend the work will take place later this week.