Tenri City, Nara Prefecture, is known as the home of the Tenrikyo religion. The construction of a huge waste treatment plant in this quiet town is now causing controversy among local residents. The construction of the landfill began last summer, and with it, the issue of the “contract” for the land has suddenly come to the forefront of local residents’ minds.
The land is owned by the Tenrikyo Headquarters. And what’s more, Tenri City has signed an unusual contract with Tenrikyo for a 60-year lease.
The land is owned by the Tenrikyo Headquarters,” said Naoshun Morimoto, a city council member of Yamatotakada City, Nara Prefecture. The treatment plant is managed by the Yamabe-Northwestern Regional Environmental Sanitation Association, which includes Tenri City and Yamatotakada City. Morimoto continues, “The problem is the rent.”
The problem is the rent. According to the data, the assessed value of the land in question is approximately 460 million yen. However, Tenri City plans to pay approximately 23 million yen per year as rent, or a total of 1.4 billion yen over 60 years. The contract period is from ’17 to ’77. By simple calculation, this would cost about three times as much money as purchasing the land. It can only be assumed that the Tenrikyo land was involved in the negotiations.
Furthermore, the rent was set at the Tenrikyo’s asking price of a 5% interest rate. One man who is an executive member of a neighborhood association in Tenri City also expressed his outrage.
Tenri City held a briefing session, but there was no specific explanation of the rent. I never heard anything about that. It’s no use objecting now, but the residents feel that they are being forced to do so rather than being convinced.
It is said that the city of Tenri began looking for a new land around 2003 due to the aging of the original waste treatment plant in Tenri City, and finally reached a contract in 2005. Why did they bother to choose this land even though they could not afford to purchase it? When this magazine contacted Tenri City, Mayor Ken Namikawa himself said over the phone, “The land has already been developed.”
The land had already been developed, so there was no need to do the construction work that would normally cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, the site is close to an expressway interchange, so packer trucks (garbage trucks) can go there without passing through any residences. Even for the other municipalities participating in the wide-area cooperative, they joined on the premise that Tenri City had found land that they could rent.”
Mayor Namikawa emphasized that he had said from the beginning that the land would be rented. However, there are rumors whispered locally about the mayor. The rumor is that Mayor Namikawa himself may be a member of the Tenrikyo Church. When we confronted him about this, he said, “I have been thinking about pursuing a political career in Tenri.
I belong to the Tenrikyo Church in order to pursue a career in politics in Tenri. However, to put it another way, the governor of Nara Prefecture and the members of the Diet of the (local) Liberal Democratic Party all belong to the Tenrikyo Church. This is because the feeling between Tokyo and here is totally different. It doesn’t matter what faith I belong to, it has nothing to do with this case. In the first place, Tenrikyo headquarters is not happy about it. If a waste disposal facility is built, the property value of this area will decrease. Tenrikyo began by saying, ‘If the local people say so, we have no choice but to lease it.
He then expressed his anger at the criticism that has now been leveled at the project.
I think this is retaliation for my various comments to Nara Governor Shogo Arai regarding the Corona project. The fact that he suddenly started talking about it (the lease agreement) makes me think that there is some kind of artificial intention.
The waste treatment plant contract issue has even prompted criticism of the governor, which was not expected. The roots of the problem seem to run deep, but the citizens would probably prefer to purchase the landfill at a lower price.
From the March 31 and April 7, 2023 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Kei Kato