Friday, June 22, 2012

Japan Day Five: Futakotamagawa

Tama river from Futako-tamagawa train platform

 Monday was our last full day in Japan. Ben and I decided to go our own ways in the morning and meet up in the afternoon (he chose Akihabara). I had my eyes on a bit of green lushness along the Tamagawa visible from the Den-en-toshi line.

Arriving just after 6:00 a.m., I walked south towards what I was sure was access to a riverside walkway. And was met with this.
Embankment construction fence, facing north
I kept walking south, hoping to find a gap in the fence.
Embankment construction fence, facing north
Nope. There seemed to be a massive ongoing construction project involving the embankment along the river. The whole area was closed. Was this going to be one of those fruitless birding days, the morning wasted because of unexpected obstacles?
Was I going to go home with nothing but a low light photo of a mukudori (gray-cheeked starling) to show for it? (If you knew how abundant mukudori were you'd understand how sad this would be).

In fact, it seems I had stumbled onto a fascinating environmental controversy. This embankment project, it turns out, had been met with an energetic counter-movement, visible in the form of signs posted on trees and fences along the embankment.
"Don't cut down the cherry and pine trees. Stop any further destruction of nature!!"
Paralleling the Hachimangu "Daiichou," this cherry tree, its top already lopped off, was wrapped with a banner pleading for its preservation.

Other signs presented images of the area's natural beauty before the project had begun.

The signs had been posted by members of a group calling itself the Futakotamagawa no kankyo to anzen o kangaeru kai (The association to consider the environment and safety of Futakotamagawa).
On its website ("I love Tamagawa") it details the reasons why the current embankment project is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers' money and tells the story of how workers systematically cut down a grove of hundred year old pine trees comprising a nature sanctuary and decimated a famous row of cherry trees. One particularly pathetic photo shows a scraggly tanuki, now without a home. It also complains (this will be familiar to anyone involved in such political actions) that government officials failed to listen to residents' concerns and simply provide pointless "cut and paste" responses "that astound even middle schoolers."

It should be noted that this area has been the subject of parallel (and perhaps even associated) protests in the recent past. There has been an ongoing movement against the construction of high rise apartment buildings near the train station. And according to an article by Duncan Ryuken Williams, a Buddhist temple got involved in the mid-90s to halt the destruction of a large stand of trees in the area. Massive signboards along the temple hillside read "To the Mitsui Real Estate Company: Plants and Trees Also Have the Buddha-Nature."

I walked north under the train tracks to see if there was another entrance. Indeed there was. I will talk about that tomorrow.

No comments: