Demolishing one of Babe Ruth’s last stadiums
Jin the Baseball Stadium Tokyo has seen many iconic moments in its century-long history. Babe Ruth played there in 1934, on a tour of Japan that proved the popularity of soccer in the country and led to their first professional team. More than half a million Tokyoites took to the streets to welcome Bambino and his teammates.
A plan to demolish the stadium, as part of a wider redevelopment of the central Jingu Gaien area, is therefore controversial. Since the city government approved it in February, die-hard soccer fans have clashed with heritage fans and environmentalists, concerned about the hundreds of mature trees also slated for ‘ chop. More than 220,000 people have signed an online petition against the reform; thousands have shown up to protest against it.
This is the next step of a project launched before the Olympic Games organized by Tokyo in 2020, which included the construction of a new national stadium next to the baseball one. In the process the city eased regulations against tall buildings in the area. By balancing and renovating the nearby basketball stadium and rugby one, he aims to turn Jingu Gaien into a “world-class sports organization”, which would also provide including two rising towers, a shopping area and hotels.
Building skyscrapers on the site, which was originally developed as a recreational area in 1926 to honor the Meiji emperor, would be “unhealthy,” says Ishikawa Mikiko from ICOMOS, a UNESCO consulting group. Ohashi Satoko, an architect, says the current football stadium, which was renovated in 2014 to be earthquake-proof, should be maintained. She accuses city officials of being stuck in the “scrape and build” mentality that defined Tokyo’s urban planning in the 1960s, a time of rapid economic growth and change in the metropolis.
Some baseball fans raise practical concerns, suggesting that the proposed skyscrapers could cause disruptive winds at the new stadium. The rampant redevelopment of baseball stadiums in America suggests that these concerns may be exacerbated. Of the dozens that hosted Babe Ruth, two remain, Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. After Jingu Stadium is gone, Koshien Stadium in Kobe is the only other survivor.■
Correction (September 22): An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to Ohashi Satoko as Hashimoto Satoko. He also falsely claimed that Jingu Stadium hosted the only professional football match attended by a Japanese emperor.