What makes a city liveable?
For me, it’s the amount of green among the grays. Nature has its way of rooting us – to ourselves, to the people around us, and to our shared humanity. It makes the concrete somehow softer and more porous, that when city life inevitably goes into overdrive, we can always find ways to breathe better.
The best cities in the world will also have the best parks. In Tokyo, there’s quite a number of them, and I got to visit a few:
Not necessarily the prettiest of them all, but Yoyogi Park sure has the most character! Yoyogi is a people’s park. Meaning, the crowd is what gives this place its own hue. Come on a Sunday to witness it when it’s most vibrant – with families & friends unwinding, students practicing a dance choreography, people walking their pets, buskers here and there, and a dozen Elvises partying.
While you’re at it, pay a visit to Meiji Jingu marked by an unmissable huge torii gate and hopefully, you also get to catch a Shinto wedding. If not, one could just always say (or write on an ema) your prayers to the universe. All is well.
Inokashira Park is considered to be one of the best parks in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms. I have yet to see sakura, but I have to say though that the fall foliage here ain’t so bad either. Located in Kichijoji, another one of Tokyo’s trendy suburbs like Shimokitazawa, Inokashira Park feels more like a community park though a super large one. If you wander deep enough, you might just bump into Totoro! Hint: He lingers somewhere near the tennis courts.
Imperial Palace East Gardens
Meticulous and rich in history, Imperial Palace East Gardens also keeps on its grounds what’s left of the Edo castle – the seat of power during the time of the samurais. Beside it is the modern-day Imperial Palace, and surrounding them is the very western business district of Tokyo Marunouchi, with the European Renaissance-inspired Tokyo Station also not too far off.
On any given day, it attracts more tourists than locals. But for a few days in springtime, especially during the time when the inner gardens of the Imperial Palace are opened to the public, locals also join in on the fun. Salarymen in black/grey suits bathed in cherry blossoms-pink – now that’s a sight to see!
And then there’s the random community park. If you get to be so lucky, you’ll chance upon a scene like this. Somewhere in Setagaya, while waiting for my AirBnb host.
Definitely slice of life material.