Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bleeped Kyoto

Deep Kyoto's Micheal Lambe wrote a piece about the proposed and controversial Kyoto Aquarium. Originally published in the Kyoto Visitor's Guide, it was pulled after a phone call from city hall. While part of me wants to thank the city government for helping justify my move from their fair city, a deeper voice insists I speak out (yet again) against such shortsighted nonsense. So here is Micheal's piece. Read it, and decide for yourself.

Personally, I prefer to see my fish in the alleys of Nishiki...

Umekoji Park and the Kyoto Aquarium

Umekoji Park, a short walk north of Kyoto station, is an important patch of green in Kyoto city. Green spaces like this perform an important environmental function in a city: cleaning the air, and regulating the temperature. They are also beneficial for people’s physical and mental health. The park at Umekoji is very popular with the local community and is often used by sports enthusiasts and sports clubs from neighboring schools and universities. Others just come for a jog or to walk the dog. Families come here and children play. As I work nearby, I often go there myself, to throw a frisbee about, or take a stroll, or just to lie on the grass and breathe the fresh air. The grass, the trees, and the flowers here are very pleasant on the eye, and provide a rich habitat for birds and insects. You see a lot of smiling faces in this park...

I was shocked when I heard that Mayor Kadokawa had given Orix, a private company, permission to build a massive aquarium on a large chunk of this precious public land. Apparently, local officials believe it will bring in more tourists and revitalize the local economy. It’s hard to believe though that an aquarium can succeed in Kyoto; an inland city with no maritime associations! People visit Kyoto for its cultural and historical associations – not to see a large concrete box-like facility full of fish and deeply depressed dolphins! Surely it would make more sense to encourage businesses that take advantage of Kyoto’s existing assets; to restore machiya, improve existing museums and educate people about Japan’s traditional arts.

Incredibly, Orix Corporation claims that the aquarium will be an educational facility; teaching children about marine ecology. Here in this highly artificial environment, children will watch dolphins jump through hoops and be taught that wild animals are playthings to be kept in unnatural conditions for our own amusement. If you want to teach children about marine ecology, take them to the sea! Here in Kyoto we should be teaching them about the environment that is around them; the rivers, woods, and mountains and their indigenous species. This aquarium on completion will release 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide per year into Kyoto’s atmosphere. It is pure sophistry to claim it is an environmental facility.

Despite strong public protest however, the project is going ahead. Construction began in July and the aquarium is due to open early next year. I think it’s time that foreign residents and visitors to Kyoto threw their weight behind the local campaign to stop this terrible plan. Let’s tell Orix and Mayor Kadokawa that this isn’t what visitors to Kyoto want. If you agree with me please visit and sign the petition to “Stop the Kyoto Aquarium”!

On the turntable: Phish, "Rift"


David said...

I signed and left the following comment:

This is a mistake. Many cities build aquariums thinking they will become major tourist attractions pulling visitors into the city. Sadly, this is not the case in towns throughout the USA which have built these lightly attended aquariums. To make a tourist attraction work it must share a connection to the landscape it placed in. Kyoto has one of the world's most recognizable and important cultural landscapes. Please don't scar it with a heavily juxtaposed aquarium.

Michael Lambe said...

Thank you for signing David!