It’s been awhile. Not that I haven’t been writing, reading, sketching, and exploring my new town of Sapporo. Now that I am back in the swing to some degree, and I have a routine of sorts in place, I feel it is important to reveal one element of that routine – public parks.
Usually, here in Japan, public spaces are very well maintained but notoriously overcrowded. Just walk down Sapporo’s Odori on an early summer Saturday and you’ll be sometimes lucky to find a bench anywhere along it’s 1.5 kilometers. So when I scout out parks I first look at the human/space ratio, then move on to the quality of the landscape, wildlife(birds), perceived seclusion from the city, and overall maintenance.
Using these metrics led me to Chijikoukan (The Hokkaido Governor’s Official Residence). This place has it all: a classic European-style mansion, wide open lawns and dense covered mini-forests, countless places sit with sun cover, babbling brooks and coy filled ponds.
I’ve stopped by this park numerous times and have spent many hours sketching and doing some light birdwatching from its gazebos. It is convenient to reach, a couple blocks away from the Nishi 18 Chome subway stop (Tozai Line), free to the public, and seems to have been kept secret from the public based on the number of people I don’t encounter there.
It’s easy to just walk through on your way about town, but it’s also just as easy to get completely sucked in for several hours. Dense trees along the park’s border shield you from the road and create the illusion of size despite the grounds only being a few blocks in size. The birdwatching here is also very good – recently I spotted white wagtail, bull-headed shrikes, and Eurasian Cuckoo. There are also bridges crossing man-made streams that don’t seem artificial or out of place.
But the most interesting element is how the city seems to cease to exist while your inside the park. The bird songs a loud enough to mask any sounds of traffic and the foliage is dense enough to block out most of the surrounding blocks higher buildings. It’s one of Sapporo’s best kept secrets, and considering this blogs rather limited readership, should stay that way.