Kyoto (1960-1964): Government’s position in the construction of Kyoto Tower

The government has been in a dilemma in the issue of the controversy stirred by the Kyoto Tower. It is concerned with the height of the tall tower, but does not have the authorization to refuse the construction of it. Over the years, they government had law to firstly, regulate the building height to maximum 31m, retrained the maximum heights at major area in historical Kyo-machiya townscapes, and designed vistaed view preservation zone to ensure the overall vista. [1] However, when it comes to issue related to the bigger picture, i.e. Tokyo Olympics and its economic benefits, the government did not have much say in it.

A similar case happened in Kyoto prior to the case of Kyoto Tower, it was the case of the Pagoda tower of Toji Temple. [2]It was caused due to the national telecom company’s plan of a new 90m tall radio tower near the 60m tall Toji Temple. This temple is one of the ancient temples with its pagoda being the tallest wooden structure in Japan. Therefore, the historical and cultural significance of the pagoda is highly valued. Yet, the construction of the radio tower would not only disrupt the view of the pagoda, but also undermine the value of the temple with its ‘obstruction’. In the end, the government, nevertheless, was successful in negotiating the relocation of the radio tower.

One can view the case of the Toji Pagoda as a micro perspective of the Kyoto Tower. The people view the telecom tower as an obstruction of the ancient Toji Pagoda, while they also view the Kyoto Tower as an obstruction to the ancient cityscape.

The government, however, does not have the authorization or power to stop the construction of the tower. Whether the government should have the right and power to control the constructions that would affect the city’s image has become controversial. The Toji Temple incident reveals that the government only has negotiation power.

Another preservation incident that showcase the government’s involvement and power would be the Narabigaoka development issue in mid 1950s to 1960s. [3] The Narabigaoka hill was a cherished heritage but was allotted for the construction of a hotel. It had aroused a lot of discontent and opposition towards the decision and the “Protect Narabigaoka” movement was initiated by the residents. The Scenic Landscape Districts owned by the Kyoto government had no power in stopping it but encouraged other parties to appeal to the national government for the enforcement of a special law to protect the heritage. In the end, the Ancient Capitals Preservation Law was enacted and Narabigaoka was saved.

Whether the case of Kyoto Tower could be compared with the Toji Pagoda and the Narabigaoka is subjective, nonetheless, the government’s stance in Kyoto Tower could be considered as passive-aggressive as the construction of it aroused controversy in the conflicts it inflicted with the old town, while the economic benefits it brought to the city was also one of its interests.

 

Bibliography:

Forming Timeless and Radiant Kyoto Landscape, 2007, Kyoto Landscape Policy

Baba, Yoshihiko. 2010, ‘Modern or Unmodern?’ Understanding the landscape dispute of Kyoto Tower and Kyoto Station

The History of Landscape formation and Town Development in Kyoto

 

 

[1]Forming Timeless and Radiant Kyoto Landscape, 2007, Kyoto Landscape Policy

[2] Baba, Yoshihiko. 2010, ‘Modern or Unmodern?’ Understanding the landscape dispute of Kyoto Tower and Kyoto Station, p.6

[3] The History of Landscape formation and Town Development in Kyoto, p.22

3 Comments on “Kyoto (1960-1964): Government’s position in the construction of Kyoto Tower

  1. These events seem to have stronger ties to the Kyoto Tower. Can we pinpoint when these cases happened to establish a concrete timeline of events? Did any of these cases influence the Kyoto Tower project, and if so, in what way?

  2. I am surprised to realise that the Kyoto government have no power in stopping the construction of the tower. It would be great to be explained in more detail. For example, which authorities were the ultimate decision? It is based on the prefecture government or the city government? Or it is determined by the central government of Japan when it comes to major economic decision? ( Olympic / Expo)

  3. I am surprised that the height constrain law became not valid when the construction involves a large economical benefit. I believe that the major city attraction of Kyoto would be the historical context and its preservation of Japanese tradition in terms of cityscape and living habit that other cities in Japan has lost. I wonder if there any alternative the kyoto government proposed to deal with the dilemma?

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