Photo/Illutration Author Haruki Murakami (Photo by Kan Kashiwazaki)

Celebrated author Haruki Murakami has thrown his weight behind a growing campaign against plans to radically alter the look of Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien district with a massive redevelopment project.

Murakami urged the developer and local authorities to “preserve the nice, leafy jogging courses and the beloved Meiji Jingu Stadium.”

“Once they are gone, the place will never be the same,” he said.

He made the comments June 25 on a Tokyo FM radio show he hosts.

The best-selling novelist and baseball nut holds a special affection for the neighborhood as he used to live there and often visited the Meiji Jingu Stadium, the home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Murakami is also an enthusiastic marathon runner. He would go jogging in the tree-lined streets each morning and came to know some of the other runners.

“All those memories with the place make me strongly opposed to the plan,”  Murakami said.

The redevelopment project involves 17.5 hectares of the downtown area, including rebuilding the Meiji Jingu Stadium and the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, as well as constructing two high-rise buildings.

Activists are alarmed about damage to the environment and landscape due to plans to fell more than 700 trees, although 837 will be planted to take their place.

Nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition against the plan, including the late musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who sent a letter in February, a month before his death, to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, urging her to halt and reassess the project.