TOKYO (AP) — Protesters in Tokyo formed a human chain Sunday to demand that the government save thousands of trees by reviewing its plan to redevelop a popular downtown park.

The demonstrators, many of whom wore green T-shirts and carried signs reading “Save Jinjo Jain,” demanded that the Education Ministry take action even though the landowner is one of its agencies.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike approved the plan in February, a move that would allow the developers – Mitsui Fudosan Properties, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Itochu Corporation and the ministry’s Japan Sports Council – to build a pair of shoes 200 meters (650 metres) long. -ft) skyscrapers and an 80-metre (260 ft) tower.

This will require cutting down nearly 3,000 trees in Jinju-jin, one of Tokyo’s most historic and beloved green areas. The plan would also include demolishing and rebuilding a historic baseball field where Babe Ruth played and changing the rugby field to an artificial turf field.

Also at stake are the 150 iconic ginkgo trees that line a century-old cornice built to commemorate Emperor Meiji, Emperor Naruhito’s great-grandfather. Critics and environmental activists say the ginkgo trees would be threatened by any construction next to them.

“I had to come and do something to stop the logging that might start this month,” said Nahoko Shirakawa, holding a handmade sign. “I can’t sit by and watch 100-year-old ginkgo trees go away.”

Rochelle Cobb, a leader of the movement who runs a management consulting firm in Tokyo, said the ministry should protect the Gaien area as a natural cultural heritage site. She said the ministry should also classify the area as a scenic site as a way to protect it.

Sunday’s protest came after a United Nations conservation organization issued a “heritage warning” for Tokyo’s Gaien district. A senior member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, said on Friday that the plan conflicts with the global fight against climate change and raises questions about transparency around the decision-making process.

“ICOMOS considers this to be an irreversible destruction of cultural heritage,” Elisabeth Brabec, head of the organisation’s International Scientific Committee on the Cultural Landscape, said at a press conference.

“Furthermore, the plan represents an unacceptable loss of open space and mature heritage trees at a time when the world is responding to climate change (and) recognizes the critical importance of preserving urban open space and all parts of urban areas,” she added. forest.”

Brabec noted that some trees are between 50 and 100 years old. She said the heritage they represent cannot be replaced by planting new trees. “It is almost unheard of for a major city like Tokyo to take some of its urban parks, which are in severe short supply, and turn them into a development area.”

Work on felling the trees could begin later this month.

Koike told reporters on Friday that her government urged developers to review the plan before starting to cut trees. She said the review they promised in January had not been delivered.

ICOMOS is asking Koike’s Tokyo Metropolitan Government and developers to respond to its alert by October 10.

The developers argued that the Jingu baseball field and rugby field could not be renovated and should be demolished. The organization is also urging Meiji Jingu to withdraw from the redevelopment project, saying Jingu Gaien was created by citizens who volunteered to provide labor to create the park.

The protests, led by civic groups, have received increasing support not only from area residents but also from prominent figures, including Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and dozens of academics, writers and architects. A number of lawsuits have also been filed in an attempt to stop the redevelopment.

“I can’t afford to lose this beautifully designed baseball field,” said kindergarten teacher Ayako Kato, a fan of the Yacolt Swallows, whose home stadium is Jinju Stadium. “We need to save not only the ballpark (but also) our culture that comes with watching baseball here.”

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