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

Tsukuba Residents Get Ready to Voice Opinions on Mayor’s Controversially Expensive Sports-Complex Construction Plan in so called “REFERENDUM” to be held on August 2nd 2015



Leaflet distributed by citizen’s group opposed to the construction of a major sports-complex in Tsukuba. It reads: Let’s not leave huge debts to our children- say NO to the 30 billion yen Sports Park plan

By Avi Landau


Referendums, in which citizens are given the opportunity to vote directly on  a particular issue or issues, can be said to be democracy in its purest form. Curiously however, despite the fact that I have  always lived in democracies, I had rarely (if ever) heard of any major referendums actually being held- until last year (2014) that is. Suddenly, significant referendums became a hot topic of conversation with one being held last year in Scotland (on Independence) and more recently (2015)- in Greece (on whether or not to accept the bailout terms which the country’s creditors were demanding). There was even a major referendum held in Japan in May 2015. Residents of Osaka were given the chance to decide whether or not Osaka Prefecture would be organized into wards as in Tokyo Prefecture.

In all these cases, the will of the majority was imposed- Scotland stayed in the United Kingdom, Greece rejected austerity terms, and Osaka will not be reorganized into wards.

The people voted- the people decided.

Tsukuba Mayor Kenichi Ichihara has joined in on the bandwagon offering the people the chance to voice their opinion- in what the city has been calling a “referendum” to be held on August 2nd. As opposition to the mayor’s plan to build an exhorbitantly expensive, high maintence and inconveniently located sports-complex grew into a major citizens’ movement, he declared that there would be a JU-MIN TOHYO- which can be taken to mean REFERENDUM, as in the ones held recently in Scotland, Greece and Osaka.

The trick is though, that the Mayor Ichihara (whose family has long been involved in the local construction business- and owns lots of land in the area in which the proposed complex will be built) has only called for what is an OPINION POLL. The JU-MIN TOHYO- that is being offered is NOT in fact a binding referendum. The word REFERENDUM is merely being used to give the people the illusion that their votes on August 3rd represent true democratic “power”- and the whole process would cost the tax-payers even more money.


So despite the fact that Tsukuba has so many NEEDS, especially in terms of child-care, elder-care and health care in general- it seems that the city will end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars of money IT DOES NOT HAVE on a huge sports-park, with a stadium and gymnasiums. As usual, the mayor has no intention of cutting costs when it comes to shelling out money to construction companies ( while the salaries of nurses, teachers, researchers, etc. are callously cut).


Recent events however have given opponents of the sport-complex reason to be to slightly hopefull. I am talking about the fact that Japan has thrown out the similarly exravagant Olympic Stadium project and has said it will go for something less costly (while the areas devastated by the  Tohoku earthquake andtsunami, and Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011 are still far from fully recovered how can they be spending so much cash on stadiums?!). The fact that this happened- so rarely does the Japanese government change course once a plan has been adopted – puts pressure on Ichihara to at least reduce costs significantly.

Anyway, tommorow is the vote (opinion poll). Those without Japanese citizenship cannot participate (though JU-MIN TOHOYO- means local residents’ vote), but urge your spouses, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, students, etc. to cast express their opinions at the polls.

Lets take a look at the pros and cons of the proposed construction project :


Construction costs will probably run over a billion dollars- with no guarantees of support from the central government or that the faciliites will be used as Olympic venues or training camps.

Debts incurred by the project will be passed off as a burden to future generations.

In addition to the  construction, annual maintenance costs  will be enormous

Inconvenient location for most Tsukubans (while very conveninet for the mayor- it will be on his property

Current plan overly ambitious and extravagant (to the benefit of construction companies) while user fees will limit local citizens to enjoy the gyms tennis courts etc. ( a professor at Tsukuba University’s Department of Physical Education told me that the plans, though grandiose, are already very much out of date.)


Facility will add prestige to the city

Very good facilities will be available for sport tournaments and competitions (for a price)

Construction companies will make huge profits (with your hard-earned tax-money




To be continued………..




One Comment

  • Keiko says:

    Many more people voted against the plan than I thought. With
    this result I think the mayor must give up the plan.