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Battle over fate of 1970s pop music palace site rages in Tokyo's Nakano Ward

This file photo taken on Sept. 18, 2018 shows the Nakano Sunplaza hall to the right of the Nakano Ward Office building in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Koichi Fukuzawa)

TOKYO -- 1970s Tokyo pop music palace Nakano Sunplaza has been slated for demolition, and plans for the site's redevelopment have become a head-banging battle of wills between residents and local politicians.

Long a landmark in the capital's Nakano Ward, the venue opened its doors in 1973 right in front of bustling JR Nakano Station. It attracted many of Japan's top pop and other music icons to its stage, and seats about 2,000 in its current layout.

In April 2018, then ward mayor Daisuke Tanaka unveiled a plan to tear down the Sunplaza around fiscal 2024 and replace it with a large arena accommodating some 10,000 people. Two months later, Tanaka made the idea a centerpiece of his re-election campaign but lost to challenger Naoto Sakai, who insisted on reconsidering the hall's fate.

However, Sakai announced at a September news conference that the demolition would go ahead, shocking many ward residents who had voted for him in hopes of saving the local cultural icon. Residents on a ward committee set up to consider redevelopment plans for the area around Nakano Sunplaza and the ward office building lambasted Sakai's unexplained about-face, and the arguments have only become more tangled since.

The Nakano Ward Office on July 4 announced an updated plan that would see a private company build a new multipurpose hall with a capacity between 3,000 and 7,000 people. The ward submitted five different plans to the ward construction committee that day, with capacities ranging from 2,200 to 10,000.

The updated plan will be discussed in the ward committee by resident-members. But however the discussions go, it appears the Nakano Sunplaza's days are numbered.

(Japanese original by Kosuke Hino and Koichi Fukuzawa, Tokyo Bureau)

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