Melina Mercouri prize for cultural landscapes to be awarded to Japan's Koga ParkThe Park of Koga, Japan, has won this year’s $20,000 Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes (UNESCO/Greece), which will be presented on September 18 at UNESCO Headquarters (Room XII, at 7 p.m).
The 25-hectare park is in the centre of the Kanto plain, 60 km north of Tokyo. Although under pressure from housing development because of its proximity to the capital, it is an exceptional example of a green space devoted to peace and relaxation and is visited each year by half a million people.
All the best-known mountains of the region, including Mt. Fuji (125 km to the south), can be seen from the park, at whose big lake people used to fish and sail before World War II. After the war the park was turned over to rice farming. In 1972, the decision was taken to restore it, and this was carried out between 1993 and 1997. The renowned Japanese landscape architect Yoshio Nakamura redesigned the lake area. Some of the buildings near the park date from the 18th century and are part of Japan’s national heritage.
The Melina Mercouri Prize - awarded every two years since 1999 in memory of the actress and former Greek Minister of Culture - rewards outstanding examples of action to safeguard and enhance the world's major cultural landscapes, in other words, those fashioned largely by human hands.
The award ceremony will be held in the presence of UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Greece to UNESCO, Vassilis Vassilikos, the Mayor of Koga Tadao Kikubo, and the park’s creator Yoshio Nakamura. Journalists who wish to attend must register by calling the UNESCO Press Service, tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 17 47.