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Enhance Tokyo's dignity through Nihonbashi project

August 2010

(1) Relocation of a portion of the Metropolitan Expressway currently built over the Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo is a difficult project comparable to remodeling the metropolis, but we support an active discussion of the project.

An advisory panel has been established to look into the possibility of relocation following a suggestion to that effect made in late December by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who said, "I want to see the Nihonbashi bridge turned into the most fascinating spot in the world." The panel plans to propose relocation plans by the end of September.

(2) The construction of the Shuto Expressway was rushed to complete it in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Routes over rivers were adopted in some sections because to do it otherwise would have required a huge amount of time and money to purchase land. In the case of the Nihonbashigawa river, the Shuto Expressway took a route along and across the river.

At that time, there was little notion of preserving the cityscape. The weird appearance of the Nihonbashi bridge as seen today could be considered a symbol of the high-growth economic period when economic efficiency was made a higher priority than protecting the environment and cityscape.

(3) But now a fascinating environment is considered more important and the quality of life in Tokyo has been called into question.

The project provides a good opportunity to consider from a long-term perspective the remodeling of the metropolis centering on the Nihonbashi area, including relocation of the portion of Metropolitan Expressway in question.

(4) The biggest hurdle is how to raise money to pay for the project. If the relocation involves construction of an underground expressway of about two kilometers near the Nihonbashi bridge, the project will cost an estimated 350 billion yen to 650 billion yen. This will require a national consensus on the fiscal burden to be shouldered by the central government.

Construction itself is expected to face great difficulties. Small and large buildings stand in the neighborhood, and subways and sewers crisscross underground. It will be necessary to select a route that can skirt these buildings and facilities as much as possible.

(5) The original Nihonbashi bridge built in the early Edo period (1603-1867) served as the starting point of five major roads from Edo, present-day Tokyo, to Kyoto and other regions. A mint, the predecessor of the Bank of Japan, dry goods shops and a fish market thrived in the neighborhood. Nihonbashi bridge and its environs are a historic symbol of Japan's prosperity.

The current bridge was built in 1911. Incorporating beautiful stone arches, the bridge has been designated a national important cultural property. Installed at the central part of the bridge span is a plate denoting the starting point of a national highway network.

Redevelopment of the Nihonbashi area as the face of Tokyo should be promoted while maintaining the appearance of historic buildings and scenic view of the Nihonbashigawa.

(6) Revitalization of the Nihonbashi area will provide a good chance to reconsider cityscapes across the nation.

The blue-ribbon panel trumpets a slogan of "reviving Tokyo as a lively and dignified metropolis." The panel members must take the time to rack their brains to make it a historic undertaking.

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