I’ve wanted to visit Kokuei Shouwa Kinen Park in Tachikawa ever since I saw a photograph of my friend sitting on a hill with his partner, surrounded by wildflowers. I figured it had to be somewhere outside Kantou, maybe Kyuushuu. It was certainly comparable to the posters I’d seen in the train station. “No,” he told me with a touch of pride. “It’s west Tokyo.”
People often claim Tokyo is a neon jungle with few outward signs of nature. This isn’t strictly true, as you can buy your way into a green oasis of goodness for around 400 yen. By luck, I ended up going on one of the free park entrance days, which are scattered throughout the year.
Most of these places have carefully organised and structured nature so there is something iconic in bloom at all times. A park keeper who doesn’t have cherry blossoms around April may as well turn in his badge and become a salaryman.
Showa Kinen Park is no exception and it wasn’t just flowers. As I was crouching to photograph something near the park entrance, I heard a rustling behind me and a pair of lizards scuttled out of nowhere. I also saw baby ducks in the lake. Anyone who doesn’t love ducks is probably a serial killer. They’re just that awesome.
My trip around Showa Kinen Park led me into a herb garden and across a pond filled with water lilies and lotus flowers. I ended up in a huge green field, surrounded by deciduous trees and blue sky so vast you could physically feel it above you. Dragonflies danced in the air. It was late afternoon and the park speakers were playing Japan’s ‘get out of here already’ theme, a signal to leave. I hadn’t even seen all of the park yet.
To see all the photographs I shot that day: Tachikawa Flickr set.
Upcoming free entrance days in 2009: 4th October, 18th October.
Price: But if you insist in going at other times, adults usually pay 400 yen to enter. Things like bicycle rental or pool use are extra.
Tachikawa is on the Chuo Line, about 25 minutes from Shinjuku. You might be better off going one stop along to Nishi Tachikawa if you can’t read Japanese signs or have the sense of direction of a one-joke anime character.