One of my absolute favorite things about living in Ibaraki, Japan, is that there are so many awesome parks that are just a bike pedal and a smile away (wait…that doesn’t even make any sense!?!…sigh…well, the parks are super close to my apartment). Anyhow, on those days when I just want to sit and do nothing, or if I’ve had a long day and need to take a brain break, I like to visit my local parks. I don’t even say anything…I simply sit down and enjoy it. I don’t know much about Zen and the whole “no-mind” concept, but I do know going to these parks has an amazingly tranquilizing effect on me. If I was able to bottle the park experience and sell it, I would probably be a gazillionaire. Or, much more likely, I’d get arrested for selling non-prescription, illegal substances. Suffice it to say, every park I’ve ever been to in Japan has something special about it, some quaint characteristic that, on the right day, can really make it special.
Today I visited Matsumi Koen*; it’s the park that’s closest to me. If I’m cycling quickly, and the traffic lights are in my favor, I can literally get there in about two minutes. When riding by, if you glance skyward, the first, striking thing about Matsumi is the observation tower that beacons the center of the park. The tower descends into another one of the park’s great features, a pond at the heart of the commons. I enjoy buying the small bags of fodder to feed fish. Oh, those countless carp…it’s so funny watching them compete for a tiny nibble…it’s like fish football really. I also enjoy the small fountain, and a small waterfall situated on the outskirts of Matsumi Pond. That unmistakable sound of brisk, flowing water can be quite peaceful. The grass is always well-trimmed (even in the winter), and today, it was like a green blanket just beguiling me to sit down. I was happy to oblige.
*Koen is the Japanese word for park.
I don’t understand exactly why these parks are so alluring to me. I’ve never been much of a park person. But, I think the best way for you to understand is to see it for yourself. Granted my camera lens doesn’t always capture the essence of a setting, but it’s just a glimpse of what I feel so fortunate to see on a regular basis. Some days, everything’s just…right. Today was one of those days. It was a beautiful, fall day in Japan: sunny but not too hot, the leaves changing color gave the natural backdrop a different hue, kids were outside playing, giggling and running, and families were spending quality time together. It’s days like these that make me wonder…”Am I going to stay here?”
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