Table Speech

The Issue of Scenery and the Attitude

June 15th, 2005

A member of the Editorial Staff of the Japan Economic Journal
Mr. Gentaro Yoshino

 When we go overseas and visit European cities we are deeply moved at their beauty. We are made to reflect on how poorly our cities and towns look.
But we too, have beautiful places. For instance our suburb city of Kunitachi has a street and community which an author called was the most beautiful in Japan.

 Kunitachi was built by a Japanese businessman who developed it to be an attractive campus town, and rarely for Japan it was built according to a city plan.

 When he sold the plots, he stipulated that home to be built on this property had to be real, full scale ones which harmonized with the scenery.

 The fact that scenery too was pubic property was first recognized last year with the making of the scenery law. It is a wonder that Tsutsumi, the businessman had taken this into consideration 70 years ago.

 This was made possible by the local citizens spontaneously saw to it that they put restraints on their private property. They made a rule that structures over 20 meters of height could not be constructed which made for an orderly community.

 The fact that European cities are beautiful is due to the fact that they are a result of city planning. They have city planners, who has the authority for building roads and bridges. If needed, he will order certain restraints or limitations on private property. This is one of the bases for local autonomy, and the base for the beauty of such cities and towns.

 The people did not act in this manner to attract tourists, but to create a beautiful environment in which to live, and to pass on to their children a tradition, thus creating a certain culture.

 In this tourist city of Interlaken not are the colors to be used for walls, roof and such but the variety of flowers which could be planted on window sills are restricted. When a house is passed down to children, they are unable to rebuild it as an apartment. This can be done only because the citizens place more value on these limitations than private rights.

 I am fond of Ireland and visit it frequently. 20 years ago it was the poorest EU nation, but today it has one of the highest incomes. What is different form Japan is that they are doing their best to attract foreign investment, when you drive out of Dublin you see many beautiful towns. I am told that a volunteer organization is conducting a tidy town contest. As one in every 10 persons work in the tourist industry, their efforts are quite visible.

 On Ireland’s Atlantic coast there is a town Westport which won the tidy town contest. The small stream which runs through the town was dug with EU funds.
The English town of Nottingham is know for the Robin Hood legend, but the famous castle cannot be seen due to tall structures impeding the view. But the planner told that they would wait until the buildings obstructing the view would be torn down due to age and they would prohibit any rebuilding.

 Now, back to Kunitachi. Recently, a real estate firm built a 20 meter high apartment house at which he citizens filled a suit. Although the lower court ruled in favor of them the higher court overthrew the verdict declaring that obstruction of scenery is a subjective matter, and cannot be said to be of common interest among the citizens. This would never have happened in an advanced nation.

 Although I cannot imagine Japan becoming a beautiful, dreamlike country in my lifetime, I hope we can become one that our children and grandchildren will appreciate.