Heian Kento 1200: Pont des arts Controversy –- viewing from advocator’s perspective

Heian Kento 1200: Pont des arts Controversy –- viewing from advocator’s perspective

With the trend of rethinking Kyoto’s identity evoked by The Heian Kendo 1200 Plan as the historical background, there aroused many discussions on finding a way between political and economic development and culture preservation. the Pont des arts bridge was a representative among all controversial projects. On 20 November 1996, Masumoto Yorikane, the major of Kyoto, put up an unexpected proposal of building a replica of Pont des arts in the center of town [1]. The project was inspired by the visiting French president, Jacques Chirac at a reception in Tokyo. The original footbridge is a renowned one, spans the Seine and connects the Louvre on one bank and the Académie des Beaux Arts on the other. The proposal was brought forward with political and economic concerns.

Viewing from the diplomatic perspective, Japan was always looking forward to a chance to cooperate with Europe in the creation of a new framework for the international community in the post-war period. Under such circumstance, France was an essential ally of both political and economic supports. During the visit, the leaders of Japan and France announced a project entitled France-Japan 20 Actions for the Year 2000, which was a guideline for cooperation in international issues [2].

As a reflection of the politics, Japan made an effort in the cultural exchange with France as well. They are both members of The League of Historical Cities with Kyoto as the president. Paris attended the association and was appointed the vice-president of the alliance at the 4th World Conference of Historical Cities in 1994. Meanwhile, there were many landscape designs imitating a Parisian model. For instance, Oike Avenue was set up to be the “Champs-Elysees of Kyoto”, when Kyoto Tower was compared to the Eiffel Tower. Moreover, Big events like “Japan Year” in France in 1997 and “France Year” in Japan in 1998 were to be held. In this context, the Pont des art project serves as a celebration of the sister-city relationship between Paris and Kyoto since 1958 [3].

Apart from the diplomatic role, there were other good reasons for the bridge to be built on the aspect of economy and urban infrastructure as well. The location of the project was at the most prosperous district of Kyoto. There exit a 600-meter stretch within which the Kamogawa river cannot be crossed [1]. The two adjacent bridges were always crowded, leaving little space for pedestrians. To construct another bridge could not only assist with the transportation, but also provide pedestrians and the disables a social recreation area free from the disturbance of vehicles. Moreover, the bridge could be easily integrated into the existing lane system of Pontocho. It invites viewers to appreciate the traditional machiyas and balconies of the bars from a different angle. In general, the bridge would help to attract visitors and make contribution towards Kyoto’ tourist industry.

The Pont des arts project could be regarded as a product of government’s diplomatic efforts to establish a better relationship with the European countries. If built, it is without any doubt that it would be a landmark with positive influence on the political and cultural exchange issues. The bridge would also be economically efficient and would assist Kyoto as a modern city.


[1] Brumann, Christoph. Tradition, democracy and the townscape of Kyoto: claiming a right to the past. Routledge, 2012.

[2] MOFA: The Significance of The Visit to Japan By President Jacques Chirac Of the French Republic. 1996. Accessed December 12, 2017. Mofa.Go.Jp. http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/europe/france/signif.html.

[3] Chronology of Kyoto. Accessed December 12, 2017. https://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/koho/chi/historical/chronology02.html.

1 Comment on “Heian Kento 1200: Pont des arts Controversy –- viewing from advocator’s perspective

  1. The case reminds me of the debate between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs on the development of the New York city. The advocator of this bridge adopts a top-down approach, in which its urban and economic effects were put in primary consideration. People against this project mainly due to cultural and political reasons. I believe it was good to have a rational and fair debate before they reach their consensus in a democratic society.

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