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Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Does Japan really care about its kids?

The people who do care for children seem to be fighting a losing battle.

In my own neighborhood, there is a dispute brewing, as residents battle plans to build "Casa Feliz Tsurumaki," a 5-story condominium.

In Japan, the height of buildings is essentially determined by the width of the road onto which the lot fronts.

In the ongoing dispute between the residents of Tsurumaki 1-chome vs. Smica K.K., a Meguro-based developer, however, the positioning of the condo's parking lot has drawn particular opposition.

According to Smica's plan, the nine-car lot will be accessed via a one-way street, heretofore virtually traffic free, which is taken by the local kids each morning en route to Tsurumaki Shogakko.

After six hours of meditated negotiations arranged by the Setagaya City office (which kindly sat in as a "neutral" third party in the dispute) and despite pleas from the head of the school PTA, parents and block leaders, Smica refused to deviate from its basic plan. It said moving the parking lot to access the larger two-way street on the building's west side "might prove inconvenient" for the residents of the building, making it more difficult to attract buyers.

"We had a nice neighborhood for our children here," sighs Mrs. Taeko Ishikawa, whose 5-year old daughter takes the street to kindergarten each morning. "And now they're coming to ruin it."

Actually, the residents are braced for further unpleasant surprises, since diagrams presented during the mediation did not show the building in its finished state.

Construction is set to begin in the first week of May.

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