Near the end of the year, there was a trip to sprawling Chikouzan Park in Saitama. It was only
mid-afternoon, but the evening darkness was already threatening to approach, slowly drawing its
curtain over the skies above. The sun's glowing warmth when we boarded the train in Tokyo had
already given way to the chilly gray veil of winter one hour later, as we stepped into the park.
We were greeted with orangey-brown carpets of fallen leaves, skeletal branches reaching toward
the heavens, barely a whisper in the air. This was the silence of nature.
One of the wild cats populating the park. There was another earlier on, near the park's entrance,
curled up in a white and dark-brown ball in the carpet of leaves. I wonder if they get cold and
hungry there in the expansive park, so dark at night, and how they came to be there. There was also
a sign later, near the side of the road, asking people not to dump their unwanted pets in the park.
The ones that survive must really adapt quickly. This one came right up to us, meowing.
Other than a few passersby walking their dogs, a pair of birdwatchers focusing their gigantic lenses
upon a flitting bird near the small pond, there were almost no people in the park. Perhaps everyone
thought it a better idea to stay warm and snug at home on a cold winter day as this; perhaps they were
returning to their hometowns for the New Year holidays, as many do in Japan. Perhaps catching up on
holiday shopping in the busy parts of the city, or seated around a nabe pot with chopsticks poised.
Not tramping through the leaves in a quiet forest.
Oh, but what a lovely forest it was.
Beware of snakes! ...although I didn't see any. Maybe they were all hibernating for the winter?
Stumbled across a random painting propped up against a tree. I wonder who placed it there,
The big city really does have its good points - always bustling with energy, always something to do,
so convenient to get anywhere. But for me, it's still such a breath of fresh air (literally :) to visit a
huge patch of nature like this one. I guess it's because before coming to Tokyo, I never really lived
in the middle of a big city before - always in the suburbs, always where nature wasn't very far away.
I've gotten very used to Tokyo, and happy with finding little patches of green here and there, in the
form of parks around the city. But to come to a very quiet, endlessly stretching place such as
Chikouzan Park... it was just something completely different. I felt as though I could be back in
California, wandering the woods somewhere, time passing at a snail's pace, the cars in traffic
whooshing by a million miles away while we stood inside a snowglobe of tranquility,
protected within its own special kind of world.