Meiji Jingu: Baseball fans are fighting to save Tokyo Stadium, where Babe Ruth once played

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Thousands of baseball fans have signed a petition to save the iconic Tokyo Stadium, where Babe Ruth once played and which inspired bestselling author Haruki Murakami to pick up a pen for the first time.

Meiji Jingu Stadium, along with legendary American baseball venues Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, is slated to be demolished and rebuilt as part of a massive redevelopment project surrounding it. sky and luxury hotels.

“The people of Tokyo are going to miss it,” said Robert Whiting, who has written books on Japanese baseball and started an online petition over the weekend to save the nearly 100-year-old stadium, which he says “reeks of history.”

“They’re going to lose a really beautiful, quiet, relaxing place and a great place to watch a baseball game,” he told Reuters.

Built in 1926, Jingu was home to the Yakult Swallows, a team that went deep, won multiple national championships, and resonated with generations of fans who cheered their team on by waving umbrellas and chanting — something Whiting said will be reduced in the new stadium.

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played there in 1934 as part of a tour of Japan, making the stadium one of the few where Ruth played.

American baseball player Babe Ruth hit a home run at Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo in 1934 during a tour of Japan. Credit: New York Times Co./Getty Images

Murakami said he was drinking beer and watching a game when he first thought about writing a novel in 1978. On the way home, he bought a pen and paper and that night began writing his first book, Listen to the Wind.

The stadium is also featured numerous times in pop culture and literature, reflecting its place in the national consciousness. It has featured in several manga and anime series, including Diamonds and Guranezi.

Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd, one of the developers, said it was aware of the opposition and was taking steps to address it, but the main development decisions were made by the Tokyo government.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Whiting’s petition to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and several others had nearly 10,000 signatures.

“There’s a lot to lose, and if this continues, it could go wrong,” Whiting said. “It’s very sad.”

There have been other controversies surrounding the demolition of iconic buildings in Japan, including Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower, one of the most iconic examples of modern architecture.

Despite several pleas to save the tower, it was demolished after a disaster last year.

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