One of the greatest things about Tokyo is the amount of green space they have all over the city. Just a short walk from the bustling shopping district of Ginza is one of these green spaces, a serene spot called Hibiya Park.
It was a cool autumn day, and after walking through the Imperial Hotel to check out the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright a large green space appeared just across the way. The park was well manicured with clean benches lining the walkways and the foliage was turning into their autumn hues. It wasn’t that busy at the time, mostly empty tents were being set up in a clearing for an event possibly later that week and a couple of people walking their dogs. It was nearing noon and after walking all morning it felt like a nice time to find a shady park bench to take a break.
A quiet breezy spot near the tennis courts where some ladies in their sixties were playing doubles tennis looked as good a place as any. We pulled from our bag a pair of onigiri (rice balls) purchased earlier in the day from an onigiri stand at the outer market in Tsukiji.
The onigiri had a homey feel to it, not perfectly shaped and was wrapped in regular plastic wrap. It was a bit nostalgic and more like something your mother would make rather than those perfectly shaped ones you get at the convenience store or at the onigiri/musubi shop. In fact, a peek into the back of shop showed a handful of ladies that all looked like someone’s mother rolling out the onigiri. Just before me in line, a Chinese tourist started picking up and putting back down multiple onigiri. The lady running the counter was not down with this, raised her voice and told them to not be so handsy with the onigiri in an annoyed tone. When it was time for me to order, she still looked a bit annoyed so I decided at that point it was time to shelf the English and use the most polite Japanese I could muster. They were out of tuna mayo so I asked if they had more and she called to a lady in the back to start making one. I picked up for myself a yaki-cheese onigiri, a grilled rice ball that piqued my interest because I’ve never heard of cheese being used in an onigiri before. The tuna mayo was still warm when it came out, and probably would have eaten it there if we weren’t already full from the sushi and tamagoyaki we’ve just had in Tsukiji.
It must have been about lunchtime because a few businessmen in suits came by and started throwing a baseball around in the shaded area. Took a bite out of the tuna mayo and it was nice, a chunkier homemade filling, unlike the perfectly smooth ones you get at the convenience store. The yaki-cheese one which I had low expectations for was actually pretty tasty. The grilled outside had a nice flavor and there was a chunk of semi-soft cheese on the inside which was a bit unusual but went well with the char from the outside. I guess grilled cheese works pretty well no matter the starch medium you use. As we ate, a lone man in his 30s wearing sweats started doing deep squats about 10 meters in front of us. He was really extending his pelvis coming out of the squat and I think he became self-conscious of our stares at this unusual sight as he quickly walk-thrusted his way towards some trees out of our view.
At the other side of the park was Shinkei Pond, a beautiful tree-lined pond with a terrace and pagoda at the sides and a crane fountain at the center. Benches surrounded the pond, and most of them were in use as this seems to be the place to relax and chat at the park. As you walk around the edges, every angle is as beautiful as the last and would be a great place to relax and enjoy nature.
As nice and interesting as this park is, I’m not suggesting that this is the park you _need_ to visit but rather if you’re in Tokyo I’d suggest just giving your nearby park a wander. With so many buildings towering everywhere you look, it’s always nice to see some greenery in the city to give your mind a reset, and if you keep your eyes and mind open, you’ll probably gain a memory or two that you will never forget.