Tokyo to demolish historic baseball stadium despite outcry – Tokyo
Tokyo’s government approved a redevelopment which will see a historic baseball stadium demolished and trees donated to honour Japan’s Emperor Meiji torn out, a move opponents called “shameful”. The project, which environmentalists say also threatens a boulevard of gingko trees, had sparked a citizen fightback including petitions with tens of thousands of signatures.
However, Tokyo’s government said the plan would proceed, with Meiji Jingu Stadium and neighbouring sports venues, including the home of Japanese rugby, to be bulldozed and rebuilt as part of a new high-rise complex. Tomoko Abe, an opposition lawmaker who was part of a cross-party group against the development, called the approval “shameful”. “Lots of people are strongly opposed and the Tokyo government hasn’t faced up to that sincerely, which is very disappointing and a big problem,” she said.
The leafy district at the heart of the battle was created 100 years ago as a “garden of relaxation and tranquillity.” It includes the baseball stadium where the legendary Babe Ruth played during a 1934 American all-star tour of Japan. It is one of only four stadiums where Ruth played that still exist, along with Boston’s Fenway Park, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Koshien Stadium near Osaka. It is also where acclaimed author Haruki Murakami was inspired to write his first novel, after hearing “the satisfying crack when the bat met the ball” during a game in 1978.
The plans will see a new stadium built next to the famed gingko tree avenue that attracts massive crowds for its stunning autumn colours. Earlier this week, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike defended the project and said those trees would not be cut down, but environmentalists say building so nearby will damage the trees’ roots and kill them. Some trees will however be lost, including some donated by the public over a century ago when the area was created to honour Emperor Meiji, who oversaw Japan’s rapid modernization. Koike said the number of trees and green spaces in the area will increase after redevelopment. She hopes and expects “the area will continue to be cherished by the citizens of Tokyo.”
Japan establishes simplified visa track for skilled foreigners – Nationwide
The Japanese government decided to establish a new, simplified track for granting highly skilled professional visas to foreigners with preferential treatment in an effort to woo foreign talent. Under the new measure, the government will grant the visa to foreign applicants if they meet certain conditions such as having an annual income of 20 million yen and a master’s degree.
The government currently grants the five-year highly skilled professional visa on a point-based system, with points allocated according to categories including academic and employment backgrounds and annual income. But it has been seen as complex at a time when the global race to acquire skilled workers heats up.
Those obtaining the five-year visa under the simplified requirements will also qualify for a permanent visa after one year of residency, compared with three years for current holders. The new system “would recognise expanded preferential treatment to those with top-level abilities,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told the ministerial meeting where the measure was decided. The government aims to start the new method in April after soliciting view from the public.
Under the current system launched in 2012, a total of 34,726 people obtained the five-year visa through June last year, out of whom 16,131 resided in Japan as of that month. The highly skilled professional visas are granted for three types of activity — advanced academic research, advanced specialized/technical activities and advanced business and management activities.
While retaining the points-based system, the new measure will enable the government to grant visas for applicants in advanced academic research or in advanced specialized/technical activities if they have a master’s or a higher degree and an annual income of 20 million yen or more or an employment record of 10 years or more and an annual income of 20 million yen or more. For those applying for advanced business and management activities, the five-year visas will be granted if they have an employment record of five years or more and an annual income of 40 million yen.
The government also decided at the ministerial meeting to make it easier for young foreign talent to seek jobs in Japan. A foreigner who has graduated a university ranked in the top 100 in two world rankings lists designated by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan will be granted a “designated activities” visa that will enable them to stay for up to two years for the purpose of job seeking.