East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) is facing a petition demanding it revoke its choice of “Takanawa Gateway” for the name of its new station set to open in 2020 on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo.
In a rare move, about 48,000 signatures have been collected via an online petition campaign, and the petition will be submitted to JR East on Wednesday.
The campaign was led by essayist Mineko Nomachi, who is knowledgeable about the history of Tokyo’s geographical names and has written books related to railways. The essayist launched the drive on an online signature-collection site immediately after JR East announced the name in December last year.
“Station names have a public nature similar to geographical names,” Nomachi said. “We should use a geographical name that has been used by local people for many years.”
Last summer, JR East solicited ideas from the public for the new station’s name. It received about 64,000 entries via postal mail and the internet. The most popular candidate was “Takanawa” at 8,398 entries. It was nearly double that of the runner-up, “Shibaura.” “Takanawa Gateway” ranked 130th with 36 entries.
“Why did JR East seek ideas from the public?” Nomachi said. “The process to decide the name is opaque.”
Nomachi’s drive collected as many as 47,930 signatures in about a month, including those of show business entertainers and university professors.
JR East’s in-house selection committee including the president decided the name. When the company publicly sought a name for the new station, it had stated: “We will refer to all ideas we receive. We will not necessarily select the most popular one.”
The company has stated that it is aware of the various opinions on the chosen station name. JR East also has said that it would not reconsider the name, saying, “We will continue to make efforts so that people will like and accept it.”
“JR East should have explained much more in detail when it sought ideas,” railway journalist Jun Umehara said. “It may be difficult to change the name, but it may work if emphasizing the term ‘Takanawa’ by placing ‘Gateway’ in brackets.”