Cool post-typhoon evening: great night for a walk around the park with the iPod. Nagai Park is usually full of joggers, walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, wheelchair racers, shogi-players and increasingly less-furtively smoking teenagers at 9PM, but what struck me tonight was the smell of cut grass. Well naturally, you say: it’s a park, dummy. Yes, I counter, but it’s a Japanese park. Grass brings mosquitoes, runs the popular wisdom, so under the manicured trees and around the immaculate flower beds, you usually find, with few notable exceptions…dirt. And, here and there, the odd sign (which all say, essentially, Please Keep Off the Dirt). Oddly, I don’t notice any fewer mosquitoes if and when I sit in a park, and the dust mites on a summer evening are something fierce on the legs and ankles, so the reasoning escapes me. Maybe that’s why everybody keeps moving.
The grass, a large swath of it on the north side of the park, near where they threw the homeless out last spring, smells more like hay than lawn. I guess it’s been put there for the IAAF world athletics championships, taking place later this year. As is the case with most international events held in Japan, the organizers are torn between their perfectly valid desire to showcase Japanese culture to the world and their almost pathological fear of not being thought international enough. So sometimes a lot of the Japanese stuff goes out the window. In the case of dirt parks though, good riddance.