Did you know that a park can be a community? All my life I have seen parks as small places that people in a certain community might use, but I don’t think I have ever seen parks as places that bring such a large community together–that act as the catalyst for so many people having something in common instead of a tool that various people use.
Yoyogi Park is most certainly that–a community.
As you may know from my previous posts, I am currently living in the Yoyogi Olympic Center. This probably means nothing to people who are not very familiar with Tokyo, but let me tell you–this is basically the ultimate location to be in. YOC is located immediately next to both the Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine, on the opposite side of these locations from Harajuku and a short walk or even shorter train ride from Shibuya and Shinjuku. These areas are known for their skyscrapers, fashion, shopping, busy intersections, and are extremely popular both with Japanese people and Foreigners. It is estimated that 2.5 million people walk through Shibuya Crossing every weekday and around 3.5 million people go through Shinjuku Station every day. Amazing. If that doesn’t put the size of Tokyo into perspective for you I don’t know what will.
So anyway, that is the area where I am living–surrounded by literally millions of people going about their daily lives, traveling, etc. And somehow when I went to Yoyogi Park, I was expecting to find the park to be a tourist trap or something used as a tool by the people actually living in the area. But as soon as I walked in the gates I could sense that something was different.
Sure there were people running on the paths, but may of them were running together–as part of a group or club or as friends. There were people biking, but most of them were with their families or with larger groups of friends. There were people sitting on the grass, but most of them were with five or ten or twenty other people–eating and drinking and laughing. There were school children in uniforms and groups of young people playing games. There were people waiting to meet up with their friends as they anxiously checked their phones, and people stopping to talk with or take pictures of people practicing their instruments among the trees.
Everyone seemed to be connected, even if they were doing different activities. Everyone seemed to be a tiny piece in the framework that was the park.
And maybe it was just because today was a Sunday, but it seemed like everyone had come to spend a good portion of their day in the park. They weren’t stopping by or taking a rest in the larger scheme of going somewhere else. They were there to partake and give back to the feeling of community that resonated from even the farthest corners of the landscape.
I strongly believe that even when you are surrounded by people you can be lonely. I have experienced that feeling myself. But somehow I feel that if you went to this park by yourself and were feeling lonely, being surrounded by laughing, happy, connected people would somehow make you feel the same way. I think that if I lived in Tokyo permanently and felt lonely Yoyogi Park is the place I would go.
Even though it is next to bustling intersections and stations, businesses and apartments, schools and hotels, Yoyogi Park allows people to enjoy a sense of community that the surrounding neighborhoods don’t necessarily offer. Walking through Shibuya Crossing a person wouldn’t feel connected to the people walking around them. It is fast paced and everyone has different directions and goals. Everyone is leading very different lives that don’t intersect or cross your own. Just because you are there–even if you are there for a long time–it doesn’t mean you are part of a community that is located in that space. But somehow Yoyogi Park seems to seep with connection that allows people from different walks of life to have something shared and valued in common.
I think I have been thinking a lot about communities lately because in the next year I will graduate from college and need to try harder to seek out the communities I want to be a part of. Growing up children are part of the communities their families are a part of–such as religion, friend groups, sports, etc. Then when you hit college and move away you become a part of the college community and whatever sub communities you choose to join there. But then you go out into the world after graduating and what then? Is your workplace a community? Probably for most people it is a sort of a community, though probably not nearly as close or large as a university or family community. How do you find a community then? How do you find friends when you don’t have classes or clubs to join, or family members to introduce you?
So I am on the look out. On the look out for potential communities I could or would join when I leave the safely and comfort of my university community. And though this post took many rambling twists and turns, and to be honest I didn’t know where I was going with this when I started writing, I think Yoyogi Park is a community I would like to be a part of. It felt comfortable and safe, open and free-spirited. And I hope that if you are in Japan and specifically in Tokyo, that you will put this location on your “to do” list so that you can experience this sense of community as well.
Thanks as always for reading! ^_^