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Tokyo's Shibuya Ward abruptly closes park, angering homeless and their supporters

The recently closed Mitake municipal park is seen in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Oct. 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Haruka Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- Shibuya Ward in the Japanese capital closed access to Mitake Park near Shibuya Station on Oct. 25, citing the need to prepare for a redevelopment project, and homeless people living in the park were removed without prior notice.

    The abrupt closure led one advocate for the homeless to strongly complain to ward officials, stating that "the forced removal of these residents is inexcusable."

    According to the Shibuya Ward Office, the move on the morning of Oct. 25 was necessary due to the redevelopment of the park and the grounds of a former Shibuya Ward branch office building next to it. There were four homeless residents in the park at the time. Three of these people were given access to private apartments rented by the ward, while one person remained in the park. The homeless advocate said the person who stayed there did so due to an excess of belongings needing to be moved.

    A 65-year-old man who slept in the park called the move "bullying." Masato Kimura of the homeless advocacy group "Nojiren" criticized Shibuya Ward, saying, "Due process for the change was not properly completed, so the forced removal of these people is problematic from a human rights perspective."

    However, an official in charge at the ward's parks department defended the move, saying, "The park had to be closed to proceed safely with preparations for construction. We formally made the decision to install perimeter fencing around the park that morning, so prior notice was not possible."

    (Japanese original by Haruka Kobayashi and Toshiki Koseki, Tokyo Bureau)

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