Headlines: Leading Japanese Movie Director,
Mr. Isao Takahata, Severely Criticizes
The Destruction Of The Closest Forested Mountain
To The Heart Of Tokyo.

Article June 6th 2009 By Hajime Yokota,
for Friday the most popular Japanese Weekly Magazine.

gHaving a Satoyama (woodlands near human habitats) is like having a treasure. Why do they need to flatten the mountain for housing development in the age of population decrease?h says with frustration, Mr. Isao Takahata, movie director from the international award winning Studio Ghibli.

On May 17th, Mr. Takahata's movie gPompokoh an animation featuring Raccoons, called gPompokoh was shown in Inagai Tokyo to 400 people. Produced by Studio Ghibli in 1995 this much loved was based on a true story of a gigantic housing development that destroyed a forested mountain on the edge of Inagi around the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Scenes from Minamiyama were used in this movie and raccoons can still be found there. Following the movie, Mr. Takahata spoke at a symposium. gI was very impressed to see my movie again in a different light, perhaps because I saw that Minamiyama mountain was in a similar situation.h

He criticized the destruction of Minamiyama for housing development. Minamiyama is one of the biggest Satoyama (woodlands close the human habitat) in Tama Area (Western Tokyo). It has approximately 90 metres of elevation above the close surroundings, about 100 hectares of untouched nature remain, however with the development at least 87 hectares of mountain and forest will be removed..

The reason why this movie was shown at the symposium was because the present day situation at Minamiyama so closely events depicted in the movie. In the movie, it is raccoons who have united to protect their mountain to stop housing development, in today's world, citizens of Inagi are united to save the raccoons and the forest from development.

Three months prior to this, Mr. Takahata had visited Minamiyama and was immediately attracted to it. gA place like this which brings tranquillity to people should be kept and preservedhhe said.

At that time Mr. Takahata raised his voice and left a note with local people saying , gMinamiyama is an oasis of the city. Please preserve ith. People from Inagi responded to his note later and asked Mr. Takahata to speak at the symposium to show his support.

Mr. Yasuhiko Uchida, the president of 'Genki School' followed Mr. Takahata's speech at the symposium, by saying, gMinamiyama's attraction is its location. It is less than10 km from the heart of Tokyo.h To reach Minamiyama, it's only 30 minutes by train from Shinjuku (Tokyo Centre) to the nearest station, then a delightful five minutes walk to the entrance of Minamiyama. The woods start from there where you can experience beautiful sunlight coming through the leaves. It is a totally different world away from the city noise.h

He continued, gThis area's development was delayed because some of the land owners did not agree with the development plan, therefore the huge area of Satoyama was left miraculously alone. This area must be preserved and utilized as a place where elders and young children can access it easily. The other day, a child with a social disorder, visited here and went home revitalized. This area is rich in diversity, including such endangered species as the Northern Goshawk and the Tokyo Salamander.h

Development began to flatten 87 hectares of Minamiyama on 11th of May 2009. 'Union of Area Management' is the main body of this development which consists of approximately 260 land owners. Estimated cost of development is 40.2 billion yen. 6.8 billion yen is expected to come from tax revenue (2 billion from yen of Inagi City Tax and 4.8 billion yen from Tokyo Metropolitan Tax). The rest of 33.4 billion yen is a projected income from land sales profit. This is a coordinated project between private sectors (individual and corporation land owners) and public sectors (the government). Private sector pays the development cost and public sector pays for the infrastructure cost. In the bottom line, this is the tax counter measure project designed to return income to the landowners, of which the largest are two of Japan's leading corporations.

'This area was designated as city development area in 1970's which lead to a sharp rise of fixed asset and inheritance taxes. The land owners are trying to raise money from the land sales in order to pay the incredible amount of tax they have been saddled with. For the small land owners this change in law has made it impossible for them to be able to make a living off the forest in the same ways that have kept the forest sustainable managed for a long, long time.h Said Mr. Uchida.

gHowever,h He continued, gthe land specialist pointed out that once Minamiyama's earth layer is largely sand , are if the forests that hold it together are destoyed, the land could liquify in an earthquake which would lead to the collapse of the house developed there. It is doubtful that if the houses have a potential to collapse that anyone would want to buy them. In that event, this would mean we would end up paying a blood tax of billions more yen to destroy valuable land, leaving only faulty assets, debt and a destroyed Satoyama behind.h

People inside and outside the city have raised their voice to protect Minamiyama. gPetition to request for a discussion between all Inagi citizensh collected 20,000 signatures in a short period of time. City Counsellor Mr.Ichimura, the president of gAssociation for Preservation of Inagi's Satoyama and Historical Sitesh proposed that the government should either purchase the land or lease the land under gDesignation for Green Area Preservation of Tokyo.h

Therefore, Tokyo Metropolitan Government has the key role to play.

Mr. Shintaro Ishihara Governor of Tokyo, stated gEnvironment First' on his election campaign poster and is promoting and 'environmentally focused' Tokyo Olympics, even setting a 25% reduction target of CO2. However, the usage of metropolitan tax to chop down 80,000 trees of Minamiyama to lose the forest that absorb CO2 definitely contradicts his policy.

Mr. Takahata was amazed.. gWhile creating forests to host Olympics, (the governor is) contributing to destroying a long sustained Satoyama. I wonder if he is just happy to see money move. He has no idea what Satoyama means.h

This may well develop into an international issue. The Ambassador to UN Peace Messenger Initiative, Mr. Paul Coleman, who has been planting trees around the world, visited Minamiyama on May 2nd and planted trees with 120 partcipants. He said gI will write a letter to Tokyo Olympic Bid committee. If they don't respond, I will write a letter to the International Olympic Committee to tell them this is all wrong.h

A City Counsellor who is for preservation, said that citizens might protest directly to IOC..

He also said 'there is a possibility that Olympic Road Race will pass through Inagi City. I wonder if (the governor) wants to show the construction site to the world. Governor Ishihara, however, has shown no intention either to pay a visit to the actual site for investigation or to reconsider the development plan. It is absolutely absurd to spend tax on the Olympic Hosting Campaign while even more tax money is being spent on environmental destruction that could cost Japan and Tokyo the Olympic Bid. This behaviour is like trying to drive a car, while braking and accelerating at the same time.