I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I think a museum celebrating Japan’s railway history and culture is a fine fit for Kyoto – and personally I love trains. I’m sure I’ll pay the museum a visit once it is open… And it may help to revive the economy of a rather run-down section of the town.
On the other hand, I’m not in favour of JR West building this on the city’s precious green space. How much will this impact Umekoji Park itself? What with the bite taken out of it from the controversial Kyoto Aquarium, it seems like the poor old park is being gradually whittled away. Will the new museum require an increase in parking areas? And will an increase in incoming traffic add to traffic pollution in this residential area (the park sits beside an elementary school)? Indeed, how much input have local residents had in these plans?
Hopefully, the builders can leave the better part of the park untouched and won’t plan any more construction schemes there in the future. Hopefully also, rail links direct from Kyoto station can deter people from traveling by car. However, the controversy raised over the building of the aquarium a couple of years back made it very clear that Kyoto City does not value either green space, or local opinion. And decisions about how best to use public space are very much top-down.
Local people should have a say in how their city is shaped instead of having grand designs imposed from on high.
Lovely aren’t they? We ought to have a bit more of that in the park and much less of this:
I took these pictures in Umekoji Park yesterday evening. It had been about a month since I last had a look at the construction work there. Previously I had to hang out of a toilet window in a neighboring building to see it. Now though, the aquarium building is a lot bigger, and higher than the surrounding screens, so it can be seen from the road. It was a pleasant spring evening though, marred only by the sound of the construction. I couldn’t help thinking what an eyesore that great big concrete box is going to be once it is finished. How short-sighted our political leaders are!
A few weeks ago Kyoto Mayor Kadokawa gave an address to the FCCJ (Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan) in Tokyo about Kyoto’s efforts to boost its profile in the world. I listened to it. One of the first questions he was asked was about the aquarium:
“This controversial project of building an aquarium with dolphins. Do you think Kyoto needs such an attraction?”
The mayor had the nerve to reply by trying to connect the aquarium with last year’s COP10 conference on Biodiversity in Nagoya…
I went there and and made a presentation of Kyoto plans including the plan for the aquarium. The aquarium that we plan in Kyoto is not just a showcase of fish and other marine species. We will collaborate and associate with the wildlife research institute of Kyoto University so that our aquarium will be something which will be contributing to the preservation of the biodiversity of this Earth. For example dolphins will be there. The dolphins’ ecology, how they live is not well known. We have the world’s authority on dolphins in Kyoto University. So we will have the contribution by this professor so that our aquarium will be something which will make a contribution for the better understanding of the wild dolphin’s ecology.
Unbelievable! How on earth are we supposed to accept that dolphins confined in tiny artificial pools, and forced to perform tricks in daily shows are a suitable test case for research into dolphin ecology? What on earth is the mayor’s Kyoto University expert/crony going to learn about biodiversity from watching dolphins jump through hoops?
Here’s the truth about the Kyoto Aquarium’s effect on biodiversity and upon our environment:
To build this aquarium they have already destroyed all too rare public green space: a meadow home to all kinds of natural flora and fauna.
The aquarium when built will release massive amounts of CO2. Traffic in the area will increase and street congestion and air pollution will follow.
The aquarium will also pollute the local waterways.
To catch exotic fish for aquariums, explosives, cyanide and indiscriminate netting is used that damages coral reefs and permanently destroys marine ecosystems.
As the mayor said himself, the aquarium will hold wild dolphins. Wild dolphins in Japan come direct from Taiji. Indeed it is the sale of captive dolphins for dolphin shows that keeps those controversial dolphin hunts going. They simply wouldn’t be economically viable otherwise.
It is believed that Orix Corporation plans to use the Kyoto Aquarium as a showcase for foreign investors. In other words they want to build other aquarium/dolphinariums like this throughout Asia. If they succeed in doing this, Taiji’s financial future as a center for dolphin hunts is assured.
I think we are all used to political dishonesty, but for the mayor to have the brazen gall to state something not only false but so obviously the EXACT OPPOSITE OF TRUTH and expect people to just accept it – is just plain RUDE! Does he really have this much disrespect for the voting public? Or am I to assume the mayor simply doesn’t understand the meaning of the word biodiversity?
It’s about time we called him on this people! We can’t just sit idly back and tolerate this deceit! Tell the mayor what you think! On the Committee to Protect Kyoto website we have prepared four fantastic postcard designs, pre-addressed to the mayor, which you can print out and send. Each one bears a very clear message in both English and Japanese:
I pledge to boycott the Kyoto Aquarium.
To make your pledge and express your opposition to the aquarium please choose a postcard, print it out and add your own personal message. We need people from all over the world to send these cards, so please tell your friends, facebook it, tweet it, climb a mountain and shout it from the top!
One Night of Musical Protest Against the Kyoto Aquarium
Good crowd, good setting, and some great performers. And a good feeling of being among old and new friends. Very heartening to see this kind of concern being shown by Kyoto residents, especially gaijin. – Ken Rodgers
The evening began with a short shakuhachi recital from Koichi Yoshida...
I wrote briefly about the event last week but it’s time for a more thorough report. For those who didn’t attend – you really missed something splendid! With three bi-lingual presentations from the anti-aquarium campaign groups, an ad hoc question and answer session, 7 fantastic musical performances and a short movie, we certainly realized our goals of raising awareness about the Kyoto Aquarium problem whilst providing some fine entertainment. There must have been 100 people attending altogether and the atmosphere was amazing. The campaigners who participated told me later that they felt cheered by the positive response they received from all those who came. Umekoji Park Project also held a whip-round that raised １５,７３２円. It might not seem like much but believe me, it helps! We also launched our “Boycott Kyoto Aquarium” postcard campaign. Everybody who attended was given a postcard to send to the mayor declaring in both languages that they would boycott the aquarium. In future weeks we are going to hand out 1000 of these postcards at Kyoto’s most famous tourist locations and pretty soon they will be available for download on our website too. Those of you who have already received one – please do send it! Let the mayor know how you feel!
This postcard will soon be available as a downloadable pdf. It's a simple and powerful design I think.
Nishimoto Masanori presents a chronology of events...
Later, I hope to get videos of the presentations from Enokida-san of the Citizens’ Network and I shall post them on our campaign website when I do. For the time being, here’s a very brief summary. Nishimoto-san of the Institute of Biodiversity presented a slideshow detailing the events leading up to our current situation. There were some interesting nuggets of information in there: an independent survey of Kyoto opinion showed that 70% were against the aquarium for example. Of the 500 aquariums in the world 100 are in Japan. To get the tropical fish they display in aquariums they use dynamite (!) and cause irrevocable damage to marine eco-systems… You can read more about it here but the main point I took away from Nishimoto’s presentation was that his group haven’t just been saying “no!” to the aquarium, they have been making alternative suggestions for a more appropriate use of this public land and have been doing their level best to work positively with the city government – and yet they have been consistently ignored by a city administration in thrall to corporate greed.
Kawagoe Yoshio points out corporate and city hypocrisy.
The second presentation was by Kawagoe Yoshio-san of the group 京都・水と緑をまもる連絡会 (The Liaison Group to Protect Nature and Water in Kyoto). Kawagoe-san is a keen conservationist, a stalwart of the campaign and also the designer of our “Boycott” postcards. He didn’t mince any words. Orix and the city mayor have claimed noble motives for their aquarium in saying that they want to teach young people about the marine enviroment. Looking at the plans though, we can see clearly that the main attraction is to be the dolphin pool and the dolphin shows they will put on there.
To borrow a phrase from Jen L. Teeter, you can clearly see here that the dolphin is the central feature of this three storey catastrophe...
There is nothing educational about watching dolphins jumping through hoops. It is purely about making money through entertainment. In other words, Orix and the Mayor Kadokawa are being dishonest, and it’s no use saying “shikattaganai” or “it can’t be helped“. They are bare-faced lying to us and we shouldn’t stand for it any longer!
Finally, Murakawa Tomoko-san of the campaign group Umekoji Park Project gave a presentation about her group’s activities and in particular about the ongoing court case. 71 local plaintiffs have taken the city to court for misuse of public land. As a matter of fact the next hearing is tomorrow and I’ve been asked to tell you all that they would greatly appreciate a few sympathetic foreign faces. The press will be there so a few foreign faces at the hearing would show that this is an issue of wide concern. If anyone is free, here are the details:
The hearing is tomorrowJanuary 27th. Supporters will meet outside the courthouse at 11:15. The hearing starts at 11:30 am. The place is Kyoto Chiho SaibanshoRoom 203. Even if you can’t really understand the proceedings the hearing itself will only take 30 minutes and your support would be invaluable!
Murakawa Tomoko-san's presentation
Throughout the presentations were translated into English by our friend Jen L. Teeter. Frankly without Jen’s help this event couldn’t have succeeded as well as it did. I think Ken Rodgers put it best when he said “Over the years I have been to quite a number of environmental events in Kansai & beyond and I thought that this one was definitely one of the most effective sets of bilingual presentations that I have seen ― basically due to Jen’s rapid, accurate and obviously caring and confident translation. Serious topics, but Jen retained a fine sense of humor (sometimes just in her tone of voice…) that really enlivened the atmosphere.” Here’s a shout out of praise from me for Jen’s husband Taka too, who helped out with translations at several crucial moments. Together they make a great team!
Another important aim of the evening that was definitely realized was that everyone had a damn good time! Throughout the night we had some fantastic and energizing performances from a variety of musicians. The flow of the music seemed to work really well too. The evening began with a short but haunting shakuhachi recital from Yoshida Koichi, then after the initial presentations were done Yoshida Koichi came back and accompanied Udonya Mentei’s Super Band in a rousing performance of soul stirring Japanese folk.
Udonya Mentei's Super Band - I don't know what "enyakorose!" means but I was singing along anyway!
Soul-pop-jazz singer Okuda Satoko then took it down a notch with her happy tunes and purrrfect vocals before Nishino Takahito came on and blew us all away with a taiko drum performance of pure passion.
Okuda Satoko - a lot of the guys told me later they particularly liked her performance...
Andy Couzens made a flaming red video backdrop for Nishino-san’s performance that worked perfectly! His other video, which he constructed largely out of Kawagoe-san’s postcard designs also seemed at times to spookily match the music it was played too…
Nishino Takahito - on fire!
The presentations over, the mood was bubbling over at this point and then on came the eccentric rock duo Booo Booo zz to play some good ole noisey metal. They told me later they had never played at an event before where they had received such a positive reaction from the audience! I think they sold quite a few CDs too!
Booo booo zz!
raw elements and DoDo then followed with a big band sound you could jump up and down to. Watching ryotaro jumping about the stage, it was pretty clear that he was really enjoying himself too!
raw elements & DoDo
Finally Das Capital Punishment took to the stage and suddenly seats were removed and everyone was dancing. Much praise to Jet Vel and Hide for their tarantistic dance-inducing beats! An excellent end to an excellent night.
Das Capital Punishment
One last word of thanks must go to my friend Sean Roe, who dj-ed throughout the event and also helped to organize it. Without the benefit of his experience it simply wouldn’t have happened. Cheers Sean!
Incidentally, all of the pictures used in this post were taken by our multi-talented friend Sean Roe. If you want to see my pictures, see below.
This is how things look at Umekoji Park today…
As you can see, having got this far it is going to take A LOT to stop construction of the Kyoto Aquarium. Local residents are still in an ongoing battle with the city administration in the courts. But they need our support. So we need a LOT more people to get involved! Hence our event on Friday the 21st – to raise awareness about this issue among both local people and foreign residents and to tell people what they can do. There’ll be some great music too! Advance tickets (500 yen cheaper!) are available at Urbanguild and Tadg’s Irish Bar. More details here. Sign our petition! Join our event!
One Night of Musical Protest Against the Kyoto Aquarium
Kyoto’s Mayor Kadokawa has given Orix Corporation the go-ahead to build a massive aquarium/dolphinarium on Umekoji Koen, a public park. On Friday January 21st The Commitee to Protect Kyoto (京都を守る会) will be hosting an awareness raising musical event at Urbanguild to let people know what they can do to protest against this ridiculous decision. We have a fantastic and eclectic line-up of traditional, folk, rock and pop musicians! You really don’t want to miss this wonderful show!
A brief synopsis of our position:
Singer/songwriter Satoko Okuda ~ click the image to see a video!
Besides issues such as the cruelty of keeping dolphins in confined conditions, the 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide that the building will exude per year into the atmosphere, and the lack of vision in developing this city with its unique position in Japanese history and culture, there is the issue of public accountability. Umekoji park is very popular with the local people but the aquarium that will be built on it is not. The plan for the aquarium was made behind closed doors between the city administration and private business with very little public input and despite strong public protest. There is something inherently wrong with a system that allows the city mayor to arbitrarily dispose of public land in this fashion.
Taiko drummer Takahito Nishino - click the image to see a video!
Now, there are those who say, “Look they’re already building this aquarium. You can’t stop it now. Isn’t it a done deal?” Well, no doubt we can’t stop the Kyoto Aquarium being built. But we have to try. This beautiful city of Kyoto, is considered the “heart of Japan”. How can we not fight for it? And if we can focus enough national and international media attention upon this, perhaps the city administration will be more careful about making this kind of decision again.
Date: Friday January 21st Doors open: 6:30 Show starts:7:30 7:00 Tickets: 2000 yen (includes 500 yen drink ticket) Students/Advance tickets: 1500 yen
raw elements ~ click the image to see video!
Location: To find Urbanguild, from Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori (this is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream) Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo) after approximately 150 metres. It’s on the 3rd floor of New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here’s a map. Tel: 075-212-1125
This month’s issue of the free tourist paper Kyoto Visitor’s Guide carries a rather angry article by yours truly on the subject of the Kyoto Aquarium. However, you won’t find it in the online edition. It seems that the print edition is circulated before the online work is completed. And this month, KVG’s web manager was right in the middle of putting everything online when there was a sudden phone call from city hall. They had seen the article and they weren’t terribly impressed. And that’s why the article cannot be found if you go to the current page for “Kyoto This Month”. I found it though. The text (minus the pictures) is tucked away in September, and for the time being you can read it here:
Not your typical activists... kiri-e artist Yoshio Kawagoe and Deep Kyoto's Michael Lambe. Photo by Barry Louie.
Barry Louie says “From 10am this morning, along the Gojozaka slope in front of Kiyomizu-dera, a dozen foreign and Japanese residents teamed up to hand out flyers, hold up banners, talk to tourists, and make the public aware of the planned Kyoto Aquarium project in Umekoji Park. We also spoke to four busloads of mayors from the worldwide historical cities conference in nearby Nara. Many residents and shopkeepers thanked us for speaking up to protect Japan’s most beloved city. Our effort was a great success, and it was FUN, too! Thanks again to everyone who showed up and supported us, but especially to Mimi and Eileen who came all the way from Osaka and Neyagawa.”
Here's Barry in action surprising the mayors. Photo by Mimi AuYeung.
Kyoto’s Mayor Kadokawa was mysteriously absent from the League of Historic Cities tour which was a pity as we would have liked to have given him a copy of the open letter we were distributing. However, I think we made an impression on the visiting mayors (and on that one plain clothes cop I handed a flyer to) so I’m pretty sure he’ll hear about it. At the beginning of the Historic Cities conference Mayor Kadokawa called for a reduction in Co2 emissions. Perhaps someone might ask him about the 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide the aquarium will release into the atmosphere every year?
This picture by Motoaki Enokida.
You can view more pictures here. Here is the text of the open letter we passed out both in English and Japanese:
An Open Letter to Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa
Dear Mayor Kadokawa,
We citizens of Kyoto are opposed to your plan to open an aquarium in Kyoto’s Umekoji-koen Park. It is both cynical and hypocritical for you to act as president of The League of Historical Cities and to preside over the building of a pollution-spewing modern concrete attraction in the historical city of Kyoto. We oppose the aquarium for the following reasons:
Mayor Kadokawa, you claim that the aquarium will preserve biodiversity. This is absurd. You are destroying some of the last green space in the city to build it. Creatures will be taken from the wild to suffer in captivity in the aquarium. The aquarium will not preserve biodiversity, it will destroy biodiversity. Furthermore, the aquarium will release huge amounts of greenhouse gases – this will further reduce biodiversity.
Mayor Kadokawa, you met in secret with Orix Corporation to plan this aquarium. You ignored the wishes of the citizens and when citizens groups opposed the plan, you overruled their wishes. This is not democracy; this is corporate cronyism.
Barry & Chris
Mayor Kadokawa, as mayor of Kyoto, you have the responsibility to protect the city’s traditional heritage. By building modern concrete tourist attractions that have nothing to do with Kyoto’s traditional culture, you are actually trampling on the city’s traditional heritage.
Mayor Kadokawa, you met behind closed doors to give away public land to a private corporation. This land is not yours to lease or sell. It belongs to the people of Kyoto.
Mayor Kadokawa, you claim that the aquarium will be used to educate the city’s children. Actually, the aquarium will teach the children of Kyoto three things: 1) it’s okay to keep animals in captivity, 2) there is no meaningful democracy in Kyoto, 3) corporate profits are more important than traditional culture. You are teaching the children of Kyoto the wrong lesson.
In short, Mayor Kadokawa, how can you be president of The League of Historical Cities when you are in the process of destroying the traditional culture of your own city? We urge you to stop this project at once. It is time for you to fulfill your responsibility as a guardian of the priceless historical culture of the city of Kyoto.
Thank you for taking the time to read this important message.
Another postcard designed by Yoshio Kawagoe. This one reads "I want to meet you in the ocean".
Here’s the meeting place for the demo this morning from 9.30. We will meet at the eastern corner of Gojo/Higashioji at the bottom of Gojo-zaka. The main demo with placards, banners etc will stay here where all the tourist buses can see us. A few members will go to the top of the hill to hand out flyers – hopefully directly to the visiting dignitaries if it’s possible – right in front of Kiyomizudera.
Here’s a link to the map for the meeting place – as marked by the green arrow.
We will be bringing cameras so expect a full report tomorrow evening.
For those of you who can’t make it – wish us luck!!!
A couple of weeks ago, I met up with some other concerned foreign residents to discuss the aquarium being built on Umekoji Park and what we could do to help the local fight against it. To recap the situation: the city administration has given Orix Corporation permission to build a giant aquarium on the much-loved parkland at Umekoji. This decision was made behind closed doors without public input and construction began in July despite public opposition.
Cranes over Umekoji
Personally I think we should be marching on city hall with pitchforks and torches and demanding the mayor’s resignation – however the other members of our group are much more realistic than that. So the first step we agreed on was to set up an online petition setting forth our arguments against this terrible, short-sighted plan. In a nut-shell they are as follows:
Any loss of green space in the city is a tragic loss for the local environment and for Kyoto city residents’ mental and physical well-being.
The aquarium is a bad fit for Kyoto and thereby economically unviable. This is not what visitors to Kyoto come to see.
Orix and the city mayor have claimed that the aquarium will educate children about the marine environment but this position is untenable. An aquarium is a highly artificial environment in which living creatures are unhappily interred and Kyoto is not a maritime city.
Well, after two weeks of writing, editing, discussing, rewriting and translating (thanks to Chris Rowthorn’s wife!), the English version of the petition is now online! (Unfortunately, Care2.com can’t read 日本語 so Barry Louie is still looking for a separate home for the Japanese version.) This petition was written in a spirit of love for Umekoji Park and for this fine old city. We want to protect it! Please help us! Click on this link, read our letter (not sure if you can see the actual petition letter in the widgetbelow so click on the link), and sign our petition! And then tell your friends! And then ask them to tell their friends! This petition will be delivered to city hall for the attention of Mayor Kadokawa.
Without doubt there will be further action on this – I shall keep you all posted. Despite the odds, we still have a fighting chance of stopping this aquarium – a few days ago the Mainichi Shimbun reported that construction had been halted after Heian Jidai artifacts had been found on site! History is literally on our side folks! How can we lose? Many thanks to the other members who have helped to get this going: Barry Louie, Chris Rowthorn, Will Baber, Stewart Wachs, Ken Rodgers, and John Dougill.