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An Oasis of Japaneseness in Modern Sapporo: Nakajima Koen


sunny 19 °C

BGM: Another Place by Hiroshima

Like any young, idealistic American Japanophile raised on a steady diet of imported anime, Kurosawa films and campy classics like The Karate Kid, I expected to see a certain level of wafu (J-Style). The tacky and wonderfully cheesy gift shops at Narita and Chitose airports really whetted my appetite and I was ready to drown myself in the Hokusai Wave of sumo wrestlers, kimono-clad geisha and samurai. But two weeks into my Japan experience and I saw nothing but a non-stop parade of Prada and Vuitton models, hi-tech gadgets and square-shaped buildings! I'd studied about Japanese culture my entire life! So where was it? Where were all the ninjas?

My university professor explained to me that Hokkaido was the wild and naturally wonderful domain of the Ainu people until the end of the Edo Period (1866), when the Tondenhei ("farmer-soldiers") moved up from Honshu to settle, decimate the indigenous people and develop the land for agriculture. This explains Hokkaido's lack of ancient, sacred places and the dominance of Meiji-Era Western-style brick palaces, Russian warehouses and inorganic modern housing. But I didn't come thousands of miles across the Pacific to live in a mirror of Western culture and at the time, I wasn't ready to give it a chance.

But my dorm mate had the perfect cure for my ills. She led me to a quiet, spacious stretch of Zen-inspired heaven only a few blocks' walk from Susukino Alley: Nakajima Park, complete with an Edo-style tea house (called Hasso-an)! We spent a good couple hours lazily admiring the gently flowing streams, expansive pond filled with elegantly swimming crayola-painted koi and glorious array of fiery red and orange maple trees. That and a richly-flavored matcha (green tea) ice cream was just enough to refresh our spirits and inspire me to start exploring and enjoying my new home for what it was.


Access to Nakajima Park: Nakajima Kouen Station is only 2 stops south of Odori Kouen Station on the Nanboku (green) Line.

Update: Apparently Nakajima Park was ravaged in 2004 by a typhoon, so some of the trees and structures pictured here might not be there anymore. But I'm certain it's still lovely as ever and quite worthy of its designation as one of the "100 most popular parks in Japan."

Posted by GenkiLee 00:46 Archived in Japan Tagged japan sapporo nakajima_park maple_leaves

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