Developers threaten Tokyo’s historic Jingu ball park, UNESCO panel says

TOKYO (Reuters) – A UNESCO panel has issued a “heritage alert” calling for the preservation of Jingu Park, the site of a historic ballpark in the Japanese capital, and about 3,000 trees set to be felled to make way for a skyscraper project.

With redevelopment due to start this month, putting at risk a field on which baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played during a tour of Japan in 1934, the U.N. culture agency’s panel urged the government to review the plans.

The programme would lead to the “complete destruction of the urban forest formed and nurtured over the past 100 years”, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) said in a letter on Thursday.

Rallies and petition drives have protested against the plan that will also tear down and replace the Meiji Jingu Stadium, built in 1926, which is now home to the Yakult Swallows team.

Celebrated composer Ryuichi Sakamoto called for a halt to the project just before he died in March, while best-selling author Haruki Murakami has also spoken out against it.

The council and its national panel for Japan also called on Mitsui Fudosan and other developers to withdraw immediately.

In June, the Mitsui Fudosan-led group launched a website for queries from the public, aiming to build “understanding and empathy” for the project.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)