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Water buffalo taxi company irritates Taketomi residents

Date Posted: 2008-05-14

Tourists on Taketomo Island love riding the carts pulled by slow moving water buffalo, but local residents are taking exception to the way the company does business.
The privately owned company, Taketomi Tourism Center, holds a lease with Taketomi Town that permits operations until it expires at the end of May, and residents want the company to disappear after that. The company purchased land four years ago for new offices, and has been fighting local officials for the okay to build a new office building on the site.
Islanders say the location is bad, because the land faces a shrine they believe important to their religion. They don’t want noise or dirt defacing the spot, and also charge the new offices would be too close to an elementary school. “To build a new building, the company needs to apply to the Board of Education council, discuss it, and get permission,” says the Taketomi Town Board of Education. That hasn’t happened, says the Board of Education, which says it has disapproved the request for construction of the new office.
The Taketomi Tourism Center owner has erected a temporary prefab office structure, claiming “to build a temporary building is not against the law.” He promises “if you give me permission, I will make a nice building with traditional red roof tiles.” The owner says his business “makes money for the town, and I’ll promote the town’s life, too.” He says the temporary building “cost me ¥30 million, and I think the Board of Education and the Town Office should pay for this building because you didn’t grant me approval to build a new office on my own land.”
Residents are protesting both to the company and to the Town Office. A rally by towns people surrounded the prefab office in a ‘human chain’ to demand “remove the office from here.”

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