Even “big trees over 100 years old”… Discomfort with the statement “Greenery is increasing in Tokyo” whether trees are cut down or not. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Even “big trees over 100 years old”… Discomfort with the statement “Greenery is increasing in Tokyo” whether trees are cut down or not.

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Tree Trimming” proceeding in various parts of Tokyo due to redevelopment by major developers

Tree felling is proceeding at a rapid pace in various parts of Tokyo, including Jingu Gaien, Hibiya Park, Kasai Rinkai Aquarium, Tamagawa-josui Greenway in Shibuya Ward, and street trees in Chiyoda Ward, among others.

Whenever such felling of trees is mentioned, the following objection invariably arises: “But Tokyo is becoming greener.

But Tokyo is getting greener.

One of the reasons for this may be the following explanation, which Governor Koike Yuriko of Tokyo has repeatedly given as part of her “Tokyo Green Biz” initiative.

In recent years, the amount of greenery in the city center, where development is progressing, has actually increased through the skillful creation of land and efforts to harmonize with nature.

Is this really true?

At a joint press conference by the four candidates for the Tokyo gubernatorial election held on June 19 at the Japan Press Club, Governor Koike said that the redevelopment of the Meiji Jingu Gaien area “will not be an issue” and that “the number of trees will rather increase” (PHOTO: Kyodo News).

Eijiro Fujii, professor emeritus at Chiba University and former president of the Japanese Garden Society, points out this lie that “Tokyo is becoming greener.

He says, “The reason why greenery is increasing in Tokyo has to do with open space (land that is not usually covered by buildings and is open for pedestrians to freely pass through and use on a daily basis) when high-rise buildings are built.

Open space is a very welcome benefit to those who build buildings, as it allows for a relaxed floor-area ratio if a certain amount of land is set aside. In reality, the number of high-rise buildings in Tokyo is increasing by that much,” said Eijiro Fujii.

The basis for open space is the “comprehensive design system” based on Article 59-2 of the Building Standards Law (special provisions for floor-area ratio, etc. for buildings with large open spaces on the site). This provision relaxes the floor-area ratio and various height restrictions when it is recognized that the creation of open space on a site, for example, “contributes to the improvement of the urban environment.

The floor-area ratio that can be increased by providing open space is 1.5 times the standard floor-area ratio, with an increase of 200% or less. Furthermore, with the creation of the “Comprehensive Design System for Urban Housing,” the “Comprehensive Design System for Urban Residences,” and the “Comprehensive Design System for Site Size,” the maximum floor area ratio allowed is 2.0 times the standard floor area ratio with an increase of 400% or less.

Furthermore, the “Revised Act on Reconstruction of Condominiums” enacted in December 2002 also relaxes the floor-area ratio restrictions. In other words, these are all convenient systems that make it possible to build high-rise buildings and tower condominiums in central Tokyo.

In the case of open space, there are no standards or assessments for managing green space after it is built, so the reality is that once it is built, it can be left as is. The more skyscrapers you build, the more you gain, and you can sell them or manage them as assets.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government also cites the “greenery ratio” (the ratio of the area covered by greenery plus water surfaces such as parks and ponds to the total area of the region) as one of the reasons for the “increasing greenery”. In the “Current Status of Greenery in Tokyo” section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s website, data for the “Tama area,” “the entire metropolitan area,” and “ward areas” for 2003, 2008, 2001, and 2006 are listed as “Trends in the Rate of Greenery. The “green cover ratio” (the percentage of land covered by greenery) has remained unchanged in recent years.

The “green cover ratio” (the percentage of buildings, roads, and other land covered with greenery such as plants and trees) in Chiyoda (’10 and ’18), Chuo (’04 and ’17), Minato (’16 and ’17), and Tama (’13 and ’18) wards was “unchanged” in recent years. ’16, ’21), and Minato-ku (’16, ’21) are cited as “changes” in the three wards. Although one cannot help but wonder about the correctness of the method used to compile the data, which shows changes not at a fixed point but in different years and for different periods (8 years, 13 years, and 5 years) side by side, it does indicate that the “green cover ratio” has increased in the three wards.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s website “Greenery in Tokyo” explains that “the green coverage rate has remained flat in recent years” (from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s “Tokyo Green Biz” website).
In the February ’24 issue of “Koho Tokyo Kodomo Ban” (Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s press release), it is distributed that “Tokyo Metropolitan Government is increasing the rate of green cover in the city center by promoting efforts by private companies to increase the proportion of plants and promote greening when they develop new towns.

The global standard is not “green cover ratio” but “tree canopy cover ratio

However, it is only in Japan that these two standards are used to explain the situation. Professor Fujii says that there are various reasons for this.

The term ‘green cover ratio’ is not generally used in academic circles,” says Fujii. It is a standard for the area covered by plants, which includes lawns, plazas, fields, promenades, and the greening of building rooftops.

Moreover, considering the reality that rooftop greening has progressed from the basic concept of thinking of it in terms of the ground, I think it has shifted to an expanded interpretation for the construction of high-rise buildings.”

On the other hand, from the viewpoint of global warming and its impact on the heat island phenomenon, “tree canopy coverage” is now considered important worldwide. The canopy cover is the percentage of land area covered by the branches and leaves of tall trees, which is calculated by taking aerial photographs of the area.

In the U.S., for example, an app called ‘i-Tree,’ which is mainly for smartphones, is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, and you can search it to find out the percentage of canopy cover in major American cities.

In New York City, the U.S., the goal is to increase tree canopy cover to 30% by ’35,” he says. Melbourne, Australia, where the canopy cover was about 22% just a few years ago, has set a goal to increase it to 30% by ’30, and then to 40% by ’40.

The temperature in France, for example, is over 40°C. In France, for example, where the temperature exceeds 40°C, there is a desperate effort to increase tree canopy cover to prevent the accumulation of heat as much as possible.

In this way, Western countries are rapidly promoting global warming mitigation, but they cannot respond unless they do so at such a rapid pace.

In Japan, trees are only counted by “number of trees”!

The “tree canopy coverage” data that has become mainstream worldwide, however, does not exist in Japan. In Japan, however, trees are counted only in terms of the number of trees. Therefore, it seems that no matter how many trees are cut down, if many young trees are planted, the excuse is given that “the number of trees is increasing.

The standard for tree canopy coverage is also ambiguous, but basically, trees must be taller than 10 meters in order to be considered effective in reducing global warming, especially in areas lined with high-rise buildings.

Unfortunately, however, street trees in Japan are restrained in height and branching. For example, a new small tree is planted where a tall tree of more than 10 meters was cut down, and it is calculated as one tree of the same. The percentage of canopy cover is significantly different between tall trees and small trees.

In terms of street trees, a 4 or 5 meter tree has a canopy size of about 1 to 3 square meters. A newly planted tree is about 1 square meter. A 10-meter tall tree can have a canopy size of 10 or 20 square meters. The size of the canopy of the same tree varies over the years, and the heat island suppression effect also differs greatly.

However, the trees being cut down in Hibiya Park and other areas are more than 100 years old, so Tokyo is an extraordinary city where tall trees that are more than 100 years old are being cut down at an alarming rate.

The redevelopment of Hibiya Park is quietly proceeding in the shadow of the pending redevelopment of Jingu Gaien (photo taken May 9, 2012; PHOTO: Mayumi Abe).

Incidentally, the temperature on road surfaces exposed to direct sunlight usually rises to nearly 60°C, whereas under the tree canopy, where direct sunlight is blocked, the temperature is about 40°C, or 20°C lower. Imagine being in the shade of a tree under the blazing sun in midsummer and being on an empty lawn, and the difference is obvious.

There is another problem with Japan’s policy of cutting down trees based on the “green cover ratio” or the “number of trees” rather than the “canopy cover ratio,” or on the premise that “open space” is to be created.

Hibiya Park and Jingu Gaien are basically open to the public at any time,” he said. In recent years, however, private capital has been introduced to these parks in the form of private companies seeking to profit from the development of these parks.

For example, the introduction of private capital such as Starbucks in Yamashita Park in Yokohama and Ueno Park in Ueno has led to a movement to use some parks as places where money can be made.

An extension of this trend is the plan to connect Hibiya Park and Mitsui Fudosan’s “Tokyo Midtown Hibiya” with a deck so that Hibiya Park can be used as an extension of the Mitsui Fudosan building.

Even worse is Jingu Gaien. It used to be a space that could be used by anyone at any time, but now they are enclosing it with membership tennis clubs and so on. It is not just a matter of the greenery being reduced; the problem is that some private companies are privatizing a public space for their own profit.

Redevelopment” and “redevelopment” proceeding in a “top-down” manner without sufficient discussion

When asked if the privatization of public space by some major corporations is something that could happen overseas as well, Professor Fujii responded, “I think the fundamental problem is that there is not enough consultation in Japan.

Professor Fujii replied, “I think the fundamental problem is that there is not enough consultation in Japan. In France, after frequent and repeated consultations, only when there is agreement on what is required in the plan can it be put into practice.

However, in Japan, for example, Hibiya Park is managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and although the Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials should be fully aware of the plan, they do not ask enough questions or provide enough explanations to discuss the plan with the users and the surrounding community from the planning stage, nor do they discuss the plan in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government does not discuss the plan, does not explain it to the public, and the public just accepts the plan as it is. The Diet and the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, which are supposed to check the situation, are not functioning properly.

Another significant problem is that the civil servants, who are supposed to act as stoppers, are not functioning properly.

In the past, there was a problem of collusion among civil servants, so civil servants were periodically transferred after about three years to prevent collusion from occurring.

As a result, as a detrimental effect, specialists are no longer being nurtured. For example, in response to a plan to cut down a large number of trees in a park, the technical staff of the park division are no longer able to point out problems from a technical point of view and make arguments, and this has led to a situation where the governor, ward leaders, and other leaders can proceed as they wish.

In other countries, even if a large corporation plans to go private, the people who are public servants act as stoppers, and the people themselves monitor the situation, so they cannot do whatever they want.

I interviewed a person in charge of street trees in France the other day, and he told me that there are employees who have been working on the project for 20 years. In Japan, on the other hand, most of the people in charge of street trees are amateurs, and the same thing is happening with parks.

For example, in civil engineering projects such as roads, general contractors have a stronger voice than public officials. The government employees who are supposed to be in charge of public works projects lack expertise, and they are losing out to corporate logic and giving priority to profits.

The regular transfers of civil servants have resulted in the loss of specialists, and furthermore, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Kan’s era of getting involved in the personnel matters of national civil servants has resulted in the loss of bureaucrats with a backbone.

Universities are also being required to become “profitable universities” in addition to being incorporated, which has made it impossible for them to conduct steady research.

When the quality of university graduates declines, the quality of not only universities but also elementary, junior high, and high schools declines, and the entire world declines. This is a structural problem in Japan. It is politics that will correct this. It is truly political reform.”

Professor Fujii has been appealing to local governments to introduce the global standard of “tree canopy coverage,” but there has been no progress in Japan. However, there is a glimmer of hope.

The other day, about 10 members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly from the Communist Party wanted to study roadside trees, so we went around Tokyo together in a microbus. And it seems that they are considering setting a target percentage of tree canopy cover.

I think Japan should follow the world’s lead and adopt the “tree canopy coverage ratio,” which has become a global standard for dealing with global warming and the heat island effect, instead of “open space,” which is convenient for companies building high-rise buildings, or the “green coverage ratio,” which is being used in Hibiya Park, where trees are cut down and all the land is turned into grassy plazas. I think Japan should follow the lead of the rest of the world.

  • Reporting and writing Wakako Takou

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