TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

The Destruction of Rare Woods and Covering Up Of Ancient Ruins For Suburban Chicago-Style Development in Tsukuba`s Nakane Konda-Dai (中根金田台) Is Bizarrely Hailed As green development By Officially Sponsored Groups

Woods Marked For The Ax In Nakane Konda-Dai (Kamisakai)

Woods Marked For The Ax In Nakane Konda-Dai (Kamisakai)

I had always found it puzzling that almost every time I entered Tsukuba City`s office for community-based activities,  The Shimin Katsudo Senta  (市民活動センタ), I would overhear one of its more prominent figures enthusiastically promoting, to practically anyone who dropped by, a plan to put up an AMERICAN STYLE housing development  in Tsukuba`s Kamisakai (上境) , where some of our city`s last remaining woods, and some of its most interesting archeological sites can be found.Oddly, this person would always emphasize that this was the idea of a Fukui University Professor, making it sound as if that academic position would impress the listener and convince him/her of the greatness of this real estate scheme.

Excavating in Nakane Konda-Dai

Excavating in Nakane Konda-Dai

I found this to be particularly surprising  because many local residents, and  concerned citizens from outside Tsukuba, have been struggling  to preserve as much as possible of this tiny, yet historically, environmentally, and aesthetically valuable area. It has been a difficult battle indeed, assisted  at first, only by the fact that numerous artifacts from different periods of Japanese history have been unearthed at the edge of the Kamisakai Woods, forcing the landowner to put his plans on hold. And then later, when the green light seemed about to be given to the project, the area got another reprieve when  a conscientious local resident reported the existence of goshawk nests in these woods.This same magnate , who had originally inherited huge (by Japanese standards) tracts of land, had earlier sold off part of his ancestral property(the part farthest from his own house), mostly forest dotted with rustic shrines, for the creation of what is now the concrete and neon mayhem of Sakura Techno-Park. For years now, he has been chomping at the bit, in anticipation of developing most of the rest of his property, after getting the go-ahead from the government.

Nakane Konda-Dai (Kamisakai) Woods

Nakane Konda-Dai (Kamisakai) Woods

Now I cant deny that this man has the right to do what he wants to with HIS LAND, if the city does not ask for it to be turned into a history or nature park and gives him the approval for construction. Sure he has a right to his (very large) piece of the pie. What is highly disconcerting, however, is that the landowner is trying to promote what he is doing, that is, cutting down some of Tsukuba`s last remaining woods and covering up its ruins, as ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY development !  And more to this he has sought and gotten the GREEN endorsement of various Tsukuba based NPO`s  (and other types of groups)with very nature-friendly reputations. This not only builds up his image as a great environmentalist, but also drives up the prices in his real-estate deal ! 

The way he is going about doing this should be of great interest to foreign residents and observers of Japan, as it is a way that the powerful here often deal with oppostion- not by threats of legal action, or actual violence, as might me the case in some other countries, but by the subtle workings of SHIGARAMI-  making your potential opponents feel indebted to you, and thus neutralizing any possible action they would take against you. In fact, with the strong sense of GIRI ( returning of favors) which has evolved in Japanese culture,the bestowing of some small favors early on, can actually get a natural enemy to work for your cause sometime later. 

 In the present case, the landlord had let various NPO`s  ( and other groups), over many years, use a small part of his land for various activities, for FREE ( though they were in fact helping to care for the woods). It turned out, however, that in the end, as  payback, he has asked for these same groups to support his project, snuff out any hint of opposition from other (unindebted) groups, and help promote it proudly as Green Development.

Tsukuba`s Last Woods Targeted For GREEN DEVELOPMENT

Tsukuba`s Last Woods Targeted For GREEN DEVELOPMENT

Of course he also uses more internationally standard methods of influence, such as the taking advantage of connections that a big developer might have . As an example of this, let me point out a  recent item in The Yomiuri Shimbuns Ibaraki Edition which surprised quite a few Tsukubans. A small article reported that a few members of The Vienna Philharmonic were taken to the Nakane Konda-Dai site (still undeveloped of course), where they proclaimed that- It was Beautiful (It is !That is why we want to protect it)! and that they would like to live in a place like Nakane Kondadai (as it looks now. NOT after suburbia goes up).This article, written by an acquaintance of the landowner, was  put into the newspaper as a promotion for the development project! I wonder what those musicians would say if they heard about this misuse of their reputations?

Another interesting ruse is the NAME of the development- Nakane Kondadai. The REAL address and place name is Kami Sakai. However, since an inquiry into the area with that name would lead to the discovery of volumes of information regarding the archeological excavations carried out there (and who wants to live on top of valuable ruins-even if its Chicago style?). Giving the development the name that it now has was an extremely clever form of diffusion. As you have guessed, in the promotional material for the houses, there is no mention of either the ruins- or the numerous graves which once stood on the site.

Some people have been working very hard to stop this develpment, and they believed that  one of their few allies in the fight against the huge construction companies and big land-owners  was the SHIMIN KATSUDO SENTA , which I mentioned above.

  So please try to imagine how these people (and I) felt, when it was discovered , indirectly, that  GOVERNMENT FUNDED groups working out of the Shimin Katsudo Senta, one of them headed by the very same person always talking up the Fukui University Professor`s development plan, were sponsoring a Roundtable Discussion grandiosely entitled- Mura no Kioku, Mori no Keisho, Ryokuin no Machizukuri- Ima, Atarashii Machi o Tsukurukoto no Imi Tsukuba Shi Nakane Konda Dai Tochi Kukaku Seiri Jigyo (村の記憶、森の継承、緑陰のまちづくり ー今、新しいいまちをつくることの意味ーつくば市 「中根・金田台土地区画整理事業」をめぐってー which can be translated as – Remembering the Traditional Hamlet, Perpetuating The Forest, Making a  Community Within The Shade of Trees – What Is the Meaning Today Of City Planning- All About Tsukuba`s Nakane Kondadai Development Project.

It was even more disconcerting to see the list of invited panelists- all closely associated with and INDEBTED TO the owner of the land. For me the biggest surprise  was learning that THE PROFESSOR, whom I always heard mentioned at the Shimin Katsudo Center was ACTUALLY the LANDOWNER! Reading the leaflets promoting the event, I shuddered when I realized that GOVERNMENT FUNDS were being used to promote this development and give it an ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY image.

I realized that I would have to attend this staged discussion, which to make the story sound even more absurd, was to be held at IIAS HALL in Tsukuba`s huge new shopping mall (a strange place to discuss green development).

I arrived early, and found most of the staff of The Shimin Katsudo Senta already there. They were taking an entrance fee which they claimed was for the materials they were distributing. These materials, however, included old newspaper articles which hailed the (then much younger)  landowner as a great friend of the environment.

The panelists  talked about their various activities in the woods and made no claim against the development plans. One bright spot in the afternoon was when Professor Ando of Tsukuba University discussed and showed pictures of his excellent work restoring and converting old buildings in Tsukuba`s Hojo District.

It was then the landowners turn. He asserted, in a barely audible monotone, that by choosing to build an American suburb type development, the area would remain green! He then proceeded to promote his real estate .

As part of the discussion held after the panelist`s presentations, a woman who I had seen arriving with the landowner earlier, and then sitting with him until the meeting began, told the story of how she had taken the European musicians to Kamisakai, and how they said that they wanted to live there (she was the writer of the newspaper article).

Selling Real Estate

Promoting Real Estate

My face must have been a deep red as I listened to these proceedings. Of all the important things that we could have used government funds to discuss, why would we have this event, for justifying and increasing the land value of a real estate project which has already been decided on. By that I mean that there was no chance for anyone who might be against this project to stop it. Its a done deal. Its not the Shimin Katsudo Senta`s job to promote these houses- no matter what the relationship of some of their staff members to the landowner.

A few days later, I heard the person who organized the round-table talks had sent out emails saying that the event was a success- it had properly promoted the creation of THE SUBURBS OF CHICAGO in the heart of Tsukuba.

See their plan at: 

中根・金田台地区:つくばエクスプレス沿線のまちづくり 

and the important story of how the goshawks (オオタカ)have played a role in this story at:

http://blog.alientimes.org/2008/06/fighting-to-protect-tsukubas-remaining-wilds/



3 Comments

  • Afternoon Tea says:

     中根・金田台区画整理事業の計画は、平成11年に都市区画決定されました。
    それより、ずっと以前から、土地を売って儲けたい、山林地権者の思惑があったようです。 そして、兄弟議員の思惑も! ここで起きている本当の問題を多くの人たちに知ってもらいたい。

  • Nora says:

    Keep as longer as you can and thank you to be brave on the writing too!))

  • Mahimahi says:

    I’m very sad to see people who think about its profit best.Nature and ruins of the Kanada stand are very valuable.
    I think that people should stop constructing to leave environment to future generations!
    Please teach your idea to more people of Tsukuba.