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Japan: Nike buys out name of public park

Nike Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of sportswear multinational Nike, will turn a public park in central Tokyo (Shibuya Ward), Miyashita Park [宮下公園], into what they call “Nike Park” [ja]. The naming rights have already been acquired from the Ward for about 150 million Yen, which will be paid over the next 5 years, and the go-ahead for the work was given last August. Investing about 450 million Yen toward renewal of the park, Nike will provide leisure facilities such as a skate-board ground and a café, in addition to the already existing two futsal grounds.

The tendency to give brand names to facilities such as stadiums and town halls is not new in Japan; other examples include for instance CC Lemon Hall [ja], Nissan Stadium [ja] and Ajinomoto Stadium [ja]. However, in the case of Miyashita Park, the acquisition of the naming right of a public space by a controversial apparel company like Nike appears to have roused indignation among some Shibuya Ward residents and other citizens. While becoming available for customers who pay an entrance fee, the new park will in fact also force homeless people currently living there to move out, a change which, while a relief for many, is considered abuse by others.

For these reasons, some volunteers have gather together and formed a movement called The Coalition to Protect Miyashita Park from Becoming Nike Park (みんなの宮下公園をナイキ化計画から守る会), whose purposes are as follows:

We oppose the plan to make our park Nike Park for the following reasons:

1) According to the renovation plan, Miyashita Park will be converted to a park expressly for sports enthusiasts. This means that a highly public space which people have been able to freely and actively utilize up until now will be turned into a commercial space for the profit of one business. Persons who do not pay for using the park as a service, will be unable to even rest at the park. This will surely have a negative impact on society at large and generally the way in which people come together.

2) For many years, Miyashita Park has been known as a space where many citizens’ groups hold gatherings, or as a starting and ending point for local marches and events. Also, it has stood as a life-saving place where many persons forced to live on the streets can stay. This plan would unquestionably deprive groups and individuals of a space for their freedom of expression, and for their daily lives.

3) This project has been forced onto the ward by Shibuya’s mayor and a number of assemblypersons in a top-down manner. Neither the ward assembly nor the city planning council has been consulted, and almost no information can be found in materials that have been made available to the public. Also, we would like to know how Nike came to be involved in this. Nike is a corporation that gave rise to the grave problem of child labor in a number of Asian countries, with reported instances of management beating and/or molesting workers. It is highly doubtful that Shibuya-ku [Shibuya Ward] has undergone democratic processes so as to adequately reflect the will of ward residents with regard to this plan.

STOP: Opposition to the Nikization of Miyashita Park
STOP: Opposition to the Nikization of Miyashita Park (from Irregular Rhythm Asylum)

In the blog Tsurumi`s text, Tsurumi condemns the tendency nowadays to merchandise everything, the Nike-Miyashita Park being just one example.

「ナイキ公園」になると言っても、渋谷公会堂が「渋谷C.C.Lemonホール」に変わるとか1)、東京スタジアムが「味の素スタジアム」になる2) といったネーミングライツ(施設命名権)売却だけの問題ではない。

Also [Miyashita Park] turning into Nike Park is not just an issue of naming rights, as was in the case of Shibuya Public Hall becoming Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall, or Tokyo Stadium becoming Ajinomoto Stadium.

[...]

ここをナイキがカネを取る有料の施設に変えようとしているのだ。これによって皆がタダで休むこともできなくなるばかりか、夜間は鍵がかけられ、ここで生活している野宿者も追い出されてしまう。
こうした「カネを払わないと休むことも水を飲むこともできなくなり、生活空間が企業の宣伝広告で埋まる」なんてことは、単に宮下公園で起ころうとしている特殊なことではなく、我々の身の回りでもすでに、そして世界中でますます広がっている由々しい事態だ。

Nike is going to turn this place into a pay facility which takes in money. Consequently, not only will people not be able to rest for free anymore, but in addition it will also be locked overnight and the homeless people who live here will be forced to move.
This “[attitude that] if you don't pay, you won't be able to rest or have a drink of water, [and the] burying of life spaces in corporate advertisements” is not a case particular to Miyashita Park, but rather a situation that is spreading little by little around all of us, everywhere in the world.

Nike, JUST DO NOTHING or go home
Nike, JUST DO NOTHING or go home (from Irregular Rhythm Asylum)

Another blogger, Mendosugiru-san (めんどすぎるさん), at the blog Hima ni makasete (暇にまかせて), expresses his opinion about what he thinks a public park should be:

あのね、ナイキが何を考えて、公園をレジャー・スポーツ施設化しようとしてるかは、わからん。
さらに、公園をそう言う方向にすると言うのには、賛成しない。
公園は、もっと無目的に、これと言った施設も要らないし、みんながぼんやり時を過ごせる場所であるべきだと思うのよ。

I really don't understand what Nike is thinking trying to change a public park into a leisure-sports facility.
And furthermore, I don't agree with the direction that [they are] taking the park in.
A park does not need such a specific purpose, we don't need any particular facility, what we need is a place where people can spend their idle time.

だから「公園を柵で覆い、夜間は施錠する」と言うのはね、これはダメだ。
こう言うのは、公園と呼ぶにふさわしくない。

That's why it is wrong to say: “Fence in the park, and lock the doors overnight”.
You can't call that a park.

そう言う意味では守る会が言うように利用者がスポーツ愛好家に限られる可能性が高くなり、みんなの公園じゃなくなってしまう。そう言うのは、公園とはすでに呼ばない気がするのだよ。

In this sense, as the coalition [defending the park] has said, it is very likely that it will become “a park expressly for sports enthusiasts”, and not anymore a park for everybody. That's why I already feel that it cannot be called a park.

が、行き場のないホームレスは追い出されると言うのは違う。
もともと、公園に勝手に住み着くことは許されない。公園は公共の場であり、住居では無い。
そこに、ブルーシートを張って、住居を作る自由など、誰にもない。許されない話。

This however is not the same as saying that “homeless people without a place to go will be thrown out”.
I do not agree with the arbitrary use of the park as a dwelling place. A park is a public space, not a residence.
Nobody has the right to spread out a blue sheet in the park and make a residence out of it. That is something I cannot accept.

Nike Park? No thanks.
Nike Park? No thanks. (from Irregular Rhythm Asylum)

Meanwhile, Sato Rei (佐藤零) at his blog Matarei (またれい)harshly criticizes the move to grant permission to Nike over management of a public park:

とりあえず、誰でも無料で行き交える当たり前の場所である「公園」を、企業が買い取って経営するのは、絶対にダメ!!
アホか!
そして圧倒的にダサイ!
しかも、ナイキは、アジアでのひどい児童労働も問題化している。
ああ、何て恥ずかしい、何て愚かしい、ひたすらに文化を殺し続ける国!

For starters, the fact that a private company can buy out and manage a “park”, a place where, as a matter of course, everybody should be able to come and go for free, is completely unacceptable!!
Are they stupid?!
And it's so horribly ugly!
On top of that, Nike has created all kinds of controversy in Asia over its terrible use of child labor.
Aah, how shameful, how foolish, this country that does nothing but kill its own culture!

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