As our Alex Kerr inspired discussion continues I have noticed two recent stories in which public policy makers are actually working to address some of the very issues which he focuses on.
First, from The Japan Times: (Try Bugmenot to view the article.)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government started a project Monday to cut down 1.8 million cedar trees in the mountainous Tama region west of Tokyo to help people with cedar pollen allergies.
One in every four residents in the metropolitan area is believed to suffer from cedar pollen allergies in spring, when the trees release vast amounts of pollen into the air.
The project, aimed at reducing pollen produced by a 1,200-hectare area in the mountains by 20 percent over 10 years, involves replacing ordinary cedar trees with broadleaf trees and a new kind of cedar that releases only a tenth of the pollen of the conventional cedar.
Timber from the felled trees will be used to make desks and lockers for schools and to help build private housing, the metropolitan government said.
“(The cedar trees) have caused vast damage across the country, but the central government hasn’t done anything for us. The metropolitan government will take the first step,” said Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who attended the ceremony.
Next, the AP passes on reports from Yomiuri and Mainichi that Kyoto is banning certain billboards and neon signs, as well as increasing regulation over building heights.
TOKYO: Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto plans to ban billboards on top of buildings and blinking neon signs to improve the city’s landscape, news reports said Saturday.
Kyoto, dotted with old temples, shrines and other historical sites, is known for its beauty and is a popular tourist destination.
But just like many other big cities in Japan, Kyoto’s streets are not free of eyesores such as gaudy billboards and glaring neon signs. Critics often blame Japan’s lax regulations.
Kyoto plans to ban all rooftop billboards as well as neon signs that flicker, Japan’s largest daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported Saturday.
The city plans to revise its regulations on outdoor advertisements by March and rooftop billboards and blinking signboards are expected to be removed completely in six years, the paper said.
The city is also considering introducing stricter regulations on the height of buildings in areas near historic sites, Yomiuri said.
Notice the photograph of Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro, who has appeared in public with Kerr, personally cutting down a cedar true. Kerr has of course been extremely active in promoting Machiya preservation and historic district legislation in Kyoto. Should he get some credit for his activism, or were these policy changes inevitable?
11 thoughts on “Signs of improvement?”
OK, you know how Ishihara has gotten in trouble for taking a bogus trip to the Galapagos to “study ecotourism”? I have the perfect ecotourism idea for Tokyo – have people come help cut down the cedars! For a limited time only, Western tourists can pay a cheap 500 yen to spend the day in the thick of nature removing a major blight on the landscape and nuisance to Tokyo residents and visitors.
You’ll need to add two zero’s to that number to include the cost of insuring 15 year old American kids who will undoubtably cut a few legs off. 😉
Kerr-Ishihara get together…You know the world is full of surprises!
Let’s send’em to land reclaiming mission in oki-no-torishima next time,
so the rock can have enough facilities for eco tourism.
Talking about killing two bird with one stone!
They were inevitable, but let’s give Kerr credit nonetheless, especially since there is a possible cause-effect relationship for the first story.
“The finest-grained wood will be used to build me a vast yacht for my retirement,” added the governor.
Ah, but you are overlooking the beauty of living in a magical land where tort damages can almost always be paid in the cash you have in your pocket!
When it’s a Japanese person suing another Japanese person. However sue happy Americans are different, and persistent. “An American woman injured in a car accident in northern Japan has filed a lawsuit with a U.S. court seeking about $95 million in damages largely from a Japanese insurance firm which she alleges provided false information about the driver who caused her injury, the woman’s husband said Wednesday.” However I’m not trying to say that the women wasn’t right to seek damages from an insurance company who lied and said they didn’t have a policy for someone they did..
I actually like the fact that there are blinking signs and billboards in Kyoto. It is a modern Japanese city, for god’s sake. Their removal won’t accomplish much unless it goes hand in hand with stricter preservation laws for many of the old buildings that do still exist.
I’d say I’m for blinking signs and billboards on the sides of buildings, but not on the roof. Kyoto really should be a city of short buildings, where you can actually see the mountains at the edges from as many places as possible. And while I hope they preserve all of the historical buildings that are left, they can’t ALL be old-but it would still be nice if less of the modern buildings were so damn ugly and drab.
At night, all of the temples and shrines are closed so this probably won’t improve the atmosphere very much.
Also, let’s face it – most of Kyoto’s big attractions like Kinkakuji, Daitokuji, and Chion-in (ji?) are a bit out of the way and when you are on the grounds, the modern sh!t is out of sight, out of mind. The ones that suffer from their surroundings (like the bigass McDonalds next to Sanjusangendo) are okay in a way because the big attractions (at Sanjusan and Toji, for example) are the statues INSIDE.
As for the city — most of the nice traditional houses are already gone and not coming back so Kyoto will most likely always be an ugly-ass city. I’m not sure that it was really every possible, however, to convince the people who live there to keep living a quaint wooden house existence for the sake of tourists as Kerr would have liked…. When you think about it, Kyoto may be ugly, but it does have great shopping and dining, a very nice station (I’m not so big on the look but it has great facilities), excellent bus service, a world-class university, etc. All of this has managed to coexist with what I would call the “islands of beauty” in the sea of concrete so I don’t think that the end result is all that bad.
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