Also posted on Wonderland.CafeBabel.com.
As soon as it became warm enough, Laimikis.lt relaunched its initiative called “Bubble the City” in English (in rather unsuccessful search for an adequate term for the creative Lithuanian “Burbuliatorius”). As last year, it takes place in Lithuanian cities and towns, as well as the most popular migrant destinations. The idea is to encourage people to spend time outdoors and do something together in a non-commercial setting, using one of the green public spaces. I have noticed that Vilnius, which, although blessed with open spaces, has rather unstable climate. It drastically lacks public toilets, and many urban spaces that people like become ‘overplanned’ due to dubious government initiatives, such as replacing old trees, which used to provide comfortable shade, with new, specially designed trees. Being in central Vilnius in cold weather is no fun at all, to put it mildly. Like in many cities, you must buy something to enjoy a comfortable place to sit. Compared to Tokyo, Vilnius at least has benches.
Various activists and groups try to revitalise open spaces of Vilnius and encourage people to spend time there and shape the places to better meet their needs. Sharing of photos online became another way of getting together for the sake of soap bubbles. Particularly because the event takes place at the same time in Lithuania and in Lithuanian emigree communities. Continue reading
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.