Yesterday I spent a few hours in a park near Tokyo Midtown – a shopping and office complex in Roppongi. Me and my friend noticed that there are guards who sometimes walk around. Otherwise it was like every other park. I had been there before, during the Roppongi Art Night events, when the park was filled with balloons with light.
People are walking their dogs, having lunch or just sitting on the grass. Yet what surprised me is that, while discussing some things about the park, my friend mentioned its “owners”. “What, is it private???” I exclaimed, surprised. Apparently so. Owners of the shopping mall want to offer a nice view for enterprises who rent offices there, so they maintain the park, which is open to the public – fortunately, without any fees. “Local governments could never afford such expensive land in the middle of Tokyo”, my friend explained.
I had to admit that my cultural bias would have otherwise not allowed such a thought to cross my mind. “Park” and “private” simply wouldn’t connect 🙂
The concepts of public and private are different from what I’m used to (in the photo: back sides of buildings facing a shrine in Shinagawa)
In countries I have lived in before Japan, it’s the businesses that would have to buy land from the government – parks are automatically public. So it’s totally different logic. But yeah, makes sense I guess – once upon a time people owned that land, it became expensive, and now in order to own it local governments need to buy it.
Well, as long as it increases the number of parks in Tokyo, I’ll learn the new concept of private park and use it 🙂 I just hope that there will always be enough social pressure for the owners to keep the parks.