Japan Press Weekly
[Advanced search]
Past issues
Special issues
Fact Box
Feature Articles
Mail to editor
Mail magazine
HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 February 26 - March 4  > Road construction under guise of fire prevention destroys local communities
> List of Past issues
Bookmark and Share
2014 February 26 - March 4 [POLITICS]

Road construction under guise of fire prevention destroys local communities

February 26&28, 2014
By the start of the Olympic Games in 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan government is seeking to complete a set of road construction projects ostensibly for fire prevention in the event of an earthquake disaster, but it will involve the forced displacement of local residents.

People facing force relocation are raising questions and complaints: “We haven’t been shown any alternative place to live next. One official just responded, ‘Why don’t you move to a public apartment complex?’;” “Many of us couldn’t ask questions because we only had thirty minutes for Qs and As in an explanatory meeting about the plan;” and “Why should we move out? The road in our community is already wide enough for emergency vehicles to pass.”

In each neighborhood, residents started up a movement in opposition to the Tokyo Metropolis plan. In one community, about 1,600 residents have signed a petition calling for the review of the plan. Another community established a liaison committee with four groups of neighbors and made a request to Japanese Communist Party Dietmembers to urge the national government to not approve those projects.

The JCP Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Members’ Group asserts that the first thing the Tokyo municipal authorities should do, if they are serious about local disaster prevention, is to ensure that more houses are highly quake-resistant (Shiraishi Tamio at a December assembly session).

The Tokyo Metropolitan administration, however, limits the budget to 772 million yen for residential measures to improve earthquake resistance while generously earmarking 203.4 billion yen for road construction. In compiling the budget under former Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro and his successor Inose Naoki, disaster preparations prioritized the construction of new roads.

In the meantime, accompanied by JCP Assemblypersons of the Tokyo Metropolis and each Ward affected, House of Representatives member Kasai Akira of the JCP inspected four out of the 28 residential areas where residents are planned to be displaced. He also had meetings with local residents and small shop owners such as a tatami maker and hairdressers in each locality.

In one community, a road was planned to go through the temple grounds, but the local residents’ strong opposition succeeded in having this deleted from the plan. The chief priest of that temple said, “The plan itself is unreasonable, destroying the histories of each community.”

After touring the four locations, Kasai said, “I realized the plan will in effect destroy local communities.” He added he will take up this issue in the Diet and will call the validity of the plan into question.

* * *

Kasai wasted no time in bringing up this problem. At a Lower House Budget sub-committee meeting on February 26, he demanded that the national government refuse permission to allow the Tokyo Metropolitan government to initiate the road construction projects for now, stating, “Most importantly, the plan should obtain the consent and the understanding of local residents.”

He illustrated some cases where one-third of a new road will pass through Akabane Nature Observatory Park in northern Tokyo and a 20-meter wide road will run on university property in southern Tokyo, and said, “The government should not approve the plan just by looking at the paperwork.”

Watching the discussion in the public gallery, Ikedo Akiko, 66, who lives in a forced eviction area said, “We will be forced out from the place where we live. Our right to existence will be infringed. I want other Dietmembers to understand our anxieties.”

The Tokyo Metropolitan government has selected 28 areas with wooden houses as firebreak zones to cut off the spread of fire in a major earthquake. The authorities are seeking to order citizens living in these areas to move out in order to complete the construction of new roads whose total length will be about 26 kilometers by the fiscal year 2020.
> List of Past issues
  Copyright (c) Japan Press Service Co., Ltd. All right reserved