On April 9, 2023, protestors convened outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to oppose the planned redevelopment of the culturally and historically significant Jingu Gaien area in central Tokyo. It was the real beginning of a protest movement.
With the support of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, a real estate firm intends to construct high-rise towers in the green space, raze and rebuild sports venues, and potentially harm iconic trees in the process. Critics liken this redevelopment to erecting skyscrapers in New York’s Central Park and warn of irreversible damage to Tokyo’s soul and its environment.
The billion-dollar project, which has already commenced some construction activities, is challenged by activists, preservationists, and locals. Despite collecting nearly 200,000 signatures opposing the development and garnering 69.5% disapproval in a newspaper poll, the redevelopment continues to move forward.
Notable voices against the project included the late composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, author Haruki Murakami, and environmental planning expert Sachihiko Harashina, who criticized the environmental impact assessment’s quality and accuracy.
A new and unique protest is planned for August 27th called the Chipko Tree of Life Festival. The objective, along with the scheduled activities, is simply for participants to hug one of the 18 gingko trees threatened by the Meiji Jingu redevelopment project.
The Chipko Movement is a non-violent forest conservation movement originating in India, and the origin of tree hugging as a form of protest against ecological destruction. While the act of protesters using their bodies to prevent trees from being cut down dates back hundreds of years, the movement grew to prominence in 1974 after a 4-day chipko protest in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand successfully ended a year-long effort to drive out contractors.
The Tokyo Chipko Tree of Life festival-cum-protest begins at 10:00 am in Jingu Gaien Park by the gingko trees, and will include live performances of music and visual art, children-oriented activities, and speeches. Events are scheduled into the afternoon.
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