Tokyo ward files suit to evict 32 shops allegedly squatting in Asakusa

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Some of the shops targeted in a lawsuit filed by Taito Ward are seen on Denboin-dori street in the Asakusa district of Tokyo in December last year.

A cluster of shops near Sensoji temple in the Asakusa district of Tokyo is at the center of a dispute with the local government.

The Taito Ward Office on Monday filed suit in the Tokyo District Court against the owners of 32 shops on a ward-administered street demanding that they remove their shops and vacate the land. The ward alleges the shop owners are illegally occupying the land.

The ward is suing 29 owners and others connected to the shops, which are part of the Denboin-dori Shoeikai, a commercial district promotion association. Denboin-dori street runs along the south side of the premises of Sensoji temple.

The ward alleges that the shops started being built there in the late 1970s, but the owners had not applied for permission to use the road as stipulated by the Road Law, nor have they paid any rent to the ward. The ward office said it has repeatedly notified the owners of the need to remove the shops, but they have refused to do so. Thus, the ward said it was prompted to file the lawsuit.

The association has cited remarks supposedly made in 1977 by the then ward mayor asking the shop owners to “move out temporarily for the sake of road improvements on Denboin-dori, then once the road is improved, return and continue business” to support its claim that the ward office has allowed the shops to continue their business there.

Current Ward Mayor Yukuo Hattori said in a statement following the lawsuit’s filing, “We will make every effort to resolve the illegal occupation of the road.”

Hiroyuki Nishibayashi, the leader of the association, said, “We will discuss our response with our lawyers.”