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The troubling demolition of the Meiji Jingu Stadium


The famous Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo will be demolished later this year despite fervent outcry from baseball fans worldwide. Constructed in the 1920s, Meiji Jingu has served as the home field of the Yakult Swallows for decades. The stadium stands as a symbol of the legacy of baseball in Japan, troubling fans of the sport in Japan and abroad. 

During the American occupation of Japan immediately following World War II, the stadium was briefly renamed after an American name Nile Kinnick. At the time, it was the main arena for all Japanese sports. The stadium was originally named after the dynasty of the Emperor, which ruled the nation until the position became ceremonial in 1947. After the Eighth Army occupation forces left Japan, the stadium name became Meiji Jingu to recognize its historical name and the district it resides within, the Jingu Gaien district of Tokyo. 

Meiji Jingu resides outside the Shinjuku district of Japan, a popular tourist destination. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played in the stadium during the 1930s. Renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist while drinking a beer at Meiji Jingu in 1978. 

Throughout the tumultuous last hundred years, the stadium was a constant in Japanese baseball and a national landmark. The stadium’s location in the historic green space Jingu Gaien surrounded by trees, has made it an oasis in bustling Tokyo. Despite concern over how the construction demolition could affect Jingu Gaien, the Tokyo government decided to level Meiji Jingu and the Rugby arena next to it and rebuild the facilities. 

Razing the two historic buildings to construct a more modern stadium shows that Tokyo’s government is committed to continuing the tradition of Japanese baseball and rugby. The two Western sports are popular in Japan, especially baseball, where the Yakult Swallows are one of five teams in Tokyo. However, building a more modern facility for rugby and baseball may have the opposite of the intended effect of increasing the sports’ popularity. 

Public response to the development of a new stadium shows the hesitancy of fans worldwide to tear down what they view as a historical sight. Attending a game at Meiji Jingu Stadium is witnessing the Yakult Swallows play at their home field and engaging in a more extensive history of Japanese baseball as a sport and phenomenon. Replacing the sight of personal, cultural, and sports history with a new shiny Stadium may leave a bad taste in the mouth of fans of Japanese baseball.