Posts Tagged ‘Sumida Ward’

How high is up: Tokyo Skytree boosts economy for some

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

There’s a Japanese proverb that goes something like: Smoke and stupidity always rise to the highest places. It’s a useful saying when talking about the media frenzy regarding the Tokyo Skytree, which opened to the public May 22. Though it’s not our mission to ponder the psychology of why people like to go to the top of very tall structures and look down on everyone else, whatever the attraction, it hardly justifies the redundantly blanket media coverage of the new broadcast tower in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. Of course, the Tobu Railway group, which owns and operates the tower, couldn’t have asked for better publicity. The number of visitors has so far exceeded its own estimates by 50 percent. No one has bothered to calculate the equivalent value in advertising that this free PR represents but it must

Skytree crowds on opening day (Satoko Kawasaki photo)

be in the billions of yen. And it’s paid off. As of last February, group reservations for tickets to the upper observation deck were booked until July 22, amounting to some 300,000 separate admissions. Because a number of people cancel on a daily basis, the operator of the 634-meter tower has decided to sell an additional 1,000 tickets a day to the lower observation deck (350 meters) between June 4 and July 10 at ¥2,500 a pop. The limit for daily admissions is 14,000, but after cancellations the number that have actually shown up is between 12,000 and 13,000. Altogether, 1.4 million
visitors have been in the tower, 85,000 of whom went to the upper observation deck (450 meters), which costs ¥3,500. Reservations must be made with a credit card (only those issued in Japan are acceptable), and there are no refunds. At those prices and those numbers, it should be no problem for Tobu to pay off its massive ¥400 billion construction cost in a matter or years rather than decades.

Tobu isn’t the only party counting on the Skytree to boost its financial situation. Tokyo Shimbun reports that the “economic impact” of the tower should also be felt nationwide to the tune of ¥174.6 billion and in the Tokyo metropolitan area by as much as ¥130 billion. Even more impressive, Sumida Ward expects ¥88 billion, and that’s just in income. Of the eight Tokyo districts where property values rose in 2011, two are in Sumida Ward near the Skytree. However, according to the Mainichi Shimbun there is some talk among Sumida residents of just how much they themselves will benefit in the balance. About 32 million people a year are projected to come to Tokyo Skytree Town and its retail complex Solamachi, which is considerable given that annual admissions to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea total 25 million. But the surrounding area is more residential than commercial and while local merchants are trying to make the most of the tourist windfall, those who simply live there are wondering if the boost is worth all the trouble. How the influx compromises public safety

New refuse rules criminalize can-collecting

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Some years ago certain enterprising margin-dwellers, for the most part homeless men, started rummaging through refuse bins at train stations for discarded magazines and comic books, and then sold them to equally enterprising persons who in turn resold them to commuters for less then the cover prices. Publishers eventually got hip to this practice and pressured the authorities to crack down on these pirates.

No, you can't (photo Mark Thompson)

The crackdown obviously closed one small window of income opportunity for homeless men, and recently the government of Tokyo’s Sumida Ward passed a law that may shut another one. On Oct. 1 a new regulation went into effect in the ward that makes it illegal for anyone except agents authorized to do so by the ward government to remove recyclables left at designated refuse locations. The ostensible reason for this law is to prevent removal companies that do not have contracts with Sumida Ward from taking recyclables such as cans, bottles and newspapers. However, groups that support the homeless have complained that the law effectively criminalizes an activity that many indigent inviduals rely on for their only income. It’s not uncommon, especially in areas near the Sumida River, to see homeless men pushing shopping carts loaded down with enormous collections of discarded aluminum cans, which they deliver to recycling centers for cash.

Most of the local governments that have passed such laws — 13 of Tokyo’s 23 wards have these regulations, as well as the cities of Saitama, Sapporo and Chiba, to mention only three — say they are not specifically targeting the homeless, but homeless support groups, some of whom have held rallies recently at prominent locations in Sumida Ward, including the area surrounding the Tokyo Sky Tree, have said that these regulations’ lack of specifics as to what consitutes an “unauthorized agent” opens the door for a crackdown on homeless can collecting, and, in turn, may further demonize the homeless in the eyes of the general population. The city of Kyoto, for instance, enforces a similar refuse law but plans to amend it with a clause that respects homeless people’s “independence.” The Sumida Ward rule sets a fine of up to ¥200,000 for violations.

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