Today is the annual “Tomin no hi” Tokyo Civic Holiday in the capital. Every prefecture has its own civic holiday. Tokyo is so large that it counts as a prefecture by itself. It has a governor rather than a mayor.
Currently a new condominium tower is being built on a corner of the nearby main thoroughfare, Nakano Dori (Nakano Avenue), and I am keeping a watch on it day by day because it’s interesting. It began last July when a dozen or so empty houses and apartments on the site were demolished. In August the ground was prepared - flattened, barriers erected around the perimeter, irrigation ditches installed - and actual construction began in early September. It is the seventh or eighth condominium tower that has gone up in my neighborhood since I’ve been living here. All of them are along Nakano Dori, because it is a major street, heading north to Nakano Station and south to Shibuya Station. The tallest is a 20-storey monster about 400 meters to the south at the Minamidai intersection. In my imagination the Minamidai intersection is the southern limit of my neighborhood. In that direction rarely travel further than the Family Mart convenience store there. Most of my attention is directed northward because that is the direction of my local subway station, the larger Nakano train station, my DVD rental shop, my mother-in-law's apartment, etc. I travel all over the city every day by subway, but in my immediate neighborhood I usually stay north of the Minamidai intersection, where the north-south Nakano Dori crosses the east-west Honan Dori (the quickest surface route to the Shinjuku area, Shinjuku is about five or six kilometers to the east).
Tokyo’s population of about 13 million is growing even though the nation’s population as a whole is shrinking by about 300,000 people per year. The capital’s population is expected to continue growing until about 2020, the year of the Olympics, but begin falling shortly after that. Slowly at first, then more rapidly. The current national population of a little over 126 million is expected to settle around 90 million in a few decades, which is about where it was during the Second World War.
Prime Minister Abe is encouraging home construction and home buying to help fuel the economy. But my point is that with the overall population shrinking we don’t need more homes. We need more hospital rooms and retirement facilities. I re ad recently that the vacancy rate of Japanese homes is now almost 20%, so we don’t need more houses, apartments and condominiums. What we need is a plan to turn abandoned homes back to nature, or parks.
In my neighborhood Nakano Dori is a hill, and this new condominium tower is being built on a slight downward slope. Just north and downhill from us is the Kanda River. Once in the last twenty years the river flooded (during a heavy thunderstorm, not a typhoon), possibly indicating that the land adjacent to the river, while pretty, is not suited for condominium towers. Instead there is a Keio Bus parking lot/depot there. On the other (north) side of the river the street slopes uphill again, making its way towards Nakano Station. My borough, Nakano, has a population of about 310,000 so when you think of the area around Nakano Station you can imagine downtown Guelph two and a half times as large, more developed, more crowded and affluent. Since Nakano Station is a major stop on the commuter lines between western Tokyo and the central hub of Shinjuku (location of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings and one of the busiest train stations in the world) there are a lot of people going through there every day.