Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Shimokitazawa Road Controversy

The New York Times has a good story on what might be called the Shimokitazawa Road Controversy: Tokyo's plan to build a big thoroughfare that will split the neighborhood in two. Shimokitazawa, in case you've never been, is a densely-packed maze of alleys filled with tiny bars, used clothing stores, music clubs etc., like a super-concentrated Berkeley or Greenwich Village. Aging Japanese hippies and counterculture-types have launched a campaign called "Save the Shimokitazawa" to stop the road-building and keep the feel of the town unchanged. The NYT story does a fine job of also telling the other side of the story:

But the project also has many supporters, among them the Shimokitazawa shop owners’ unions, which were founded right after World War II. They hope a broad boulevard will provide an escape route in an earthquake, and make it easier for buses and taxis to run through the neighborhood.

Kuniyoshi Yoshida, a 71-year-old landowner who leads one of the unions, said that as the neighborhood, like the rest of Japan, grows older, residents place a higher priority on safety and convenience. He also said the newcomers had no right to complain, since most have refused to join his union and participate in neighborhood cleanups.

That is not to mention the host of troubles that they have brought, he says: the crowds, graffiti, loud music, drunken revelers urinating on homes.

“They say this road will destroy the neighborhood,” he said. “But we original residents see it as progress.”

Personally, though, I'd see it as destruction--I love wandering the streets of Shimokitazawa and checking out all the little shops and bars, running into friends and seeing musicians I know in this neighborhood that's unlike any other in Tokyo--it won't be the same after the Road is built.

No comments: