About a week after a railway operator unveiled a name partly using English for a station under construction on Tokyo's iconic Yamanote loop line, people are still debating whether the name is appropriate, with naysayers collecting petitions online to demand its retraction.
"Takanawa Gateway," a mixture of the name of a neighborhood in the capital's central Minato Ward and the English term, has been selected by East Japan Railway Co. for the station opening in 2020 ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics. The station will be part of a sophisticated commercial-residential complex to be lit up at night.
The name is simply "too long" is among the most frequently cited reasons for opposing it, as the "gateway" part will be actually pronounced by Japanese as "ge-e-to-we-i," making it a nine-syllable name.
Elderly people say they are unfamiliar with the English word. "Ge-e-to-we-i is difficult to pronounce. It's not a clear-cut name," complained an 80-year-old man from Setagaya Ward.
(Image of Takanawa Gateway station) [Photo courtesy of JR East]
JR East insists "gateway" would best describe the significance of the new station expected to become an important hub in the capital's traffic due to its proximity to Haneda airport and Shinagawa Station, where a new maglev train line is scheduled to open in 2027.
People who favor the name say it sounds fresh and inspiring.
"Foreign nationals will feel affinity to it. I think it's a good name," said Sotaro Tsukada, a 28-year-old man currently on a visit to his home country from Britain where he works.
Minato Mayor Masaaki Takei also gave his thumbs-up to the name of the station to be located in his ward. "Locals have high expectations (for the new station). The name reflects the history of (Takanawa) having served as a gateway to Edo," or now Tokyo, during the Edo period (1603-1868), he said.
The mayor added he can feel "motivation to become a showcase of Japan" in the naming.
The petitioners criticizing the name say it does not fit the neighborhood or the Yamanote Line, saying that Tokyoites see the idea of using an English word for no special reasoning as being "outdated."
They also take issue with the fact that JR East ignored the top three choices from members of the public it had solicited -- Takanawa, Shibaura and Shibahama, and picked Takanawa Gateway despite being placed 130th in popularity.
Satoshi Okuhara, a curator at the Railway Museum in Saitama, near Tokyo, said the railway company probably wanted to "give a new atmosphere (with the name) as part of a strategy to create a (good) image for a new town" it will redevelop near the station.
The three-day-old Change.org petition has gathered more than 12,000 signatures as of 6 p.m. Monday.