Quick notes on Tokyo Parks, inspired by Lee Chapmans Oct 18 2012 photo
Tokyo Green Space‘s Jared Braiterman wonders why Tokyo’s parks are so sad, and Tokyo photographer Lee Chapman records their bleak existence beautifully here and here (this is not something confined to Tokyo, as “An Englishman in Osaka” points out.
But these observations focus heavily on the physical aspects of Tokyo’s play spaces – poorly maintained, cramped, warning signs, and trash. Missing from (and not intended to be included in) these accounts are the human use aspects of Tokyo’s many neighbourhoods parks – something that is sometimes hard to pick up on a short photo-stopover during an afternoon cycle (although I do have to note Lee’s fantastic portrait of aging play).
Here are some shots from a park in Western Tokyo that illustrate the conviviality, diversity of use (and users), and easy negotiation of personal space that is the every day of many of Tokyo’s loved public spaces.
Here, kindergarten children investigate rambling weeds, mothers discuss schedules for the week ahead and gossip about mothers on the other side of the park. Other children make use of the rugged old-skool jungle gym and learn about the painful effects of gravity and friction (bleeding, broken blisters are common in 4~5 year olds just learning to swing). Running races span the breadth of the space, a mother and daughter discuss dirt and stones in the center while a boy constructs a sand sculpture, and in a corner a blindfolded boy plays a game with his mother. Several groups of retirees enjoy an afternoon beer or sake with snacks while laughing loudly and often a little bit lewdly. Solitary visitors have a quiet read and smoke. On a morning walk with Rob from the Adaptable Futures group we had a pleasant morning tea and enjoyed being accosted by a local lady who tried to palm off her “unneeded shoes” for us to take home to our wives…..
On special occasions mochi-tsuki events (smashing up rice to make rice cakes), local festivals and other scheduled activities take place here.
I’m inspired by the openness and vibrancy of this simple space. Here we witness aspects of tolerance (but not without the friction that is an important aspect of any successful society), humour, trust, freedom and time that are key elements of the neighbourhood creative climate.
Solitary reading and blindfolded kids games
Kindergarten bicycle parking, after-school play, mother scheduling and gossiping
Climbing practice for the older brother and ‘outdoor time’ for the baby
From left to right – Mother & daughter sand investigations, a mid-park sandcastle builder, a fierce sprint battle
Friends racing to the park while ‘the boys’ enjoy an afternoon beer
Old friends, relaxing times, beer and chips
Swings and shacks
Drinkers, smokers, icecream(?) eaters, surly individuals and playing children are all welcome in Tokyo’s more convivial parks
Taking it easy, with a roll of toilet paper to wipe your hands and blow away your autumn hayfever
Investigating weeds and insects is a key aspect of Tokyo suburban childhood
The more elderly of the elderly read rather than get on the piss
But they can’t resist a smoke (I usually abhor smoke in my eye, but I accept from from old guys in the park – I’m not sure whether I have a reason or whether it’s just my wonky sentimentality)
- EXTRA –
Night use of this park in Nagoya also inspires me. The climbing mound in the middle of the local playground becomes a spot for chatting, smoking, flirting, drinking…….