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I often stopped by a park whenever I got tired after long walk. The sanctuary which was separated from city noise, the summer garden, was filled up with people's voices and smiles. The group who sat next to me might be junior high school students. I asked them to let me take a photo. When I was pressing the shutter button, the girl slightly changed the face angle. It's so impressive. Maybe a woman knows the best face angle with which she looks beautiful even she is a teen-ager.

Among dozens parks in Paris, the most I like was Buttes-Chaumont Park in the 19th ward. The park had a variety of terrain because it located on the hill side. So you could look over far away to the downtown from top of the hill. The scenery with a suspension bridge and steep rocky hill which was surrounded by the pond made me remember the old Chinese paintings.
There were many charming parks in Paris besides famous "Bois de Boulogne"or "Bois de Vincennes" A park was very important public space for communication like cafe. And it's livery. Children played the table tennis at the fixed concrete ping pong table. The old and young played the petanque together. Couples were talking on the benches. Plants were well gardened. A sanitation man kept the dust box clean. Guardians watched children. There were the adults who watched children and gave warning for their bad habit even they were not their own children. The social issue of taking pet into the park was solved with making the pet yard.

However I noticed later. Paris was one of the cities which had the largest number of the parks. London, Berlin, Madrid, Lisbon .... , from my experience, it's not so easy to find a park for taking a rest in other European cities. Maybe it's from cultural back ground of each country. A house yard for England, a church garden for Germany and a square for Spain and Portugal has been taking the role of park.

Compare to those countries Japan is not so bad in number of the park. But for me, in my impression, most parks in Japan are dead. It looks like blank area. I don't see children. I see the sign board on which thousands of restrictions for play in the park are written. No trash box, I think this is big problem. Local government might be say "It's for security reason" But it's obviously their negligence. I think the concept, no trash box in public space, is totally wrong. Why not put it and hire a trash collector? Why not hire a gardener? It must make some extra jobs. Instead of spending the money for small park, Japanese local government uses the budget for soccer ground or all weather dome field which we have to take a complicated procedure to rent and pay high charge.

Whenever I see a vacant park which is not weeded at all, I'm so depressed. The park which should be an oasis of the city becomes a gloomy vacancy in Japan. I even think that it might be better without it.
It's quite easy to reduce the city budget. No hesitation for giving the minimal facilities for residents, this must be the biggest difference of governmental policy between Paris and most of the Japanese cities. The result of the effort is clear when you watch the people's face at the park.

Jul. 2006

Today's piece
"Portrait au jardin" Paris, France 2001

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