As the parade of courses flew past, I teased him about incipient move of the Tama area courthouse from Hachiōji to Tachikawa. He did not take the teasing kindly, becoming glum and complaining that losing the courthouse was a disaster for his city.
(Now if you have ever seen or been in the Hachiōji District courthouse, you could not have disagreed more strongly with him. Eyesore hardly begins describe to the exterior of the building...and the interiors! Tawdry, dingy, unimpressive--choose your favorite expression of derision. The demolition of the courthouse will instantaneously raise property values in the immediate area 5%.)
I brought up the matter of the courthouse move because it is a significant symbol of a reversal of Tokyo's westward expansion--and an admission that even Tokyo has had to start to consolidate. Turning the conversation to the subject of the relationship between Hachiōji's economy and its politics, the council member told me of his troubles:
"We have two expressways that have just opened. Where they meet, at the interchange, would be a perfect place for a shopping center and commercial district. However, whenever we try to broach the subject, the chōkai (neighborhood associations) at the center of town go completely nuts, threatening the party with a withdrawal of support. So discussion of the project get postponed."
I was puzzled by his story. "But the merchants in front of the train station have nothing to complain about. They have tremendous foot traffic coming out of the station. There is no parking anyway. A shopping center off the expressway would not compete with them at all."
He looked serious. "The merchants of the stores in front of the station are not in charge of the chōkai. The merchants with their stores on the
"But..but...that's preposterous!" I spluttered. "Hachiōji Station is over a hundred years old. How could the merchants of the
"Unbelievable it may be," he replied. "But they still are."
The scale of the problems facing Japan in an anecdote...it is not that the merchants of Hachiōji had not yet adjusted to the economic and social realities of the Heisei Era. They had not yet adjusted to the realities of even the Meiji Era.
This post has been revised and improved with helpful hints from readers.