Stop the Kyoto Aquarium!

UPDATES: There is now a Japanese version of this same petition at the following site:
Support the Campaign to Boycott Kyoto Aquarium with a postcard to Kyoto Mayor Kadokawa:

The city government of Kyoto has given the go-ahead to plans for a mammoth aquarium to be built on Umekoji public park. This will be operated by a private company Orix Corporation. Despite strong public protest, construction of the aquarium began on July 15th and is due to finish early next year.

We object to this aquarium for the following reasons:

  • The loss of public green space. City parks are essential for people's physical and   mental well-being. Umekoji Park is very popular with the local public for sports and recreation.

  • It is not suitable for Kyoto's local economy: Kyoto is an inland city with no maritime associations. It makes more sense to support those businesses that work with Kyoto's obvious strengths: history, tradition, and crafts.

  • The plan is environmentally unsound and sends children the wrong message. The aquarium will release 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. A variety of marine wildlife will be captured and confined in a highly artificial environment. Dolphins will be kept for entertainment purposes. The stress these creatures endure will undoubtedly shorten their life spans significantly.

  • The decision was made behind closed doors between the city administration and private business. This is public land but public opinion has been ignored.

If you agree that this plan is misguided, please sign our petition for an end to the construction and a public referendum on Umekoji's future!

NOTE! Please write your message in ROMAN LETTERS and not in JAPANESE as cannot read Japanese script. We will be putting a Japanese petition online soon!
Dear Mayor Kadokawa,

We the undersigned are writing to express our opposition to the aquarium being built on Umekoji Park. We understand that your intention in approving this plan was to attract more visitors to Kyoto, revitalize the local economy and to educate young people about marine ecology. However, we feel that this decision was misguided.

First, we are dismayed at the loss of rare public green space. Umekoji Park is much used by the local community for sports and recreation. We believe such green spaces are essential for people's mental and physical well being. They are also the lungs of a city, cleaning the air, and regulating the temperature. Also they provide children with a safe, natural place in which to play. Any reduction of the parkland at Umekoji is a great loss to the city. We ask that no further development takes place on public green space.

We also question the project's economic viability. Unlike other cities that have aquariums, Kyoto is an inland city with no maritime associations. People visit this city for its historical and cultural associations: for its temples, shrines, gardens and traditions. To revitalize the local economy surely it makes more sense to encourage businesses that take advantage of Kyoto's existing assets: its rich artistic and cultural traditions. We believe it would be better to restore machiya, improve existing museums and educate people about Japan's traditional arts. We believe that rather than constructing yet another concrete box-like structure for short-sighted business interests, more should be done to protect, and restore and highlight Kyoto's traditional culture.

We do not think that a highly artificial aquarium in Kyoto is an effective way to teach children about their natural environment. Moreover, the dolphins that will be kept there for entertainment purposes will suffer stress from their confined conditions and most likely a dramatically reduced lifespan as a result. Should we be teaching children that wild animals are playthings to be kept in unnatural conditions for our own amusement? To learn about the marine ecology they must visit the sea and observe these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. Here in Kyoto we should be teaching our children about the environment that is around them: the rivers,  mountains, woods and their indigenous species. It is contradictory to build an aquarium that will release 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere and then claim that the facility is for educating children about the environment. This will give Kyoto, the city where the Kyoto Protocol was signed, a poor public image globally.

Finally, we question the decision-making process that led to the approval of this project. The plan was made behind closed doors between the city administration and private business with very little public input and despite strong public protest. Is this a democratic way to decide the use of valuable public land? Surely this land belongs to all the people of Kyoto. Why has it been taken away from us?

For these reasons we stand opposed to the Kyoto Aquarium project. It is bad for the local environment, bad for Kyoto's children, bad for the city's public image and is highly unlikely to succeed in Kyoto's economy. These are our demands:

  • That the construction now underway be halted pending a review.

  • That there be a public referendum to decide Umekoji Park's future.

  • That more be done to safeguard and protect this city's green spaces and traditional heritage.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important message.
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