Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

I am struck by how poorly maintained and under-used many of the residential neighborhood parks are. This one, close to where I live, is large, has many mature trees facing the street, and has almost no usage. To call it uninviting and unloved would be an understatement.

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

The street side is almost promising. There is a long row of mature trees and a community bulletin board. Next to the bulletin board, and also on the far end of the park, are designated areas to leave your trash. Unfortunately, there is no receptacle for the bagged garbage, so crows and cats pick through the bags and the contents start to disperse.

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

The entrance to the park reveals vast areas of gravel, unplanted beds, and few amenities or attractions. The size of the park only underscores the waste of so much public space going unused. Given how avidly neighbors tend to their tiny gardens and occupy small strips of public space, why are local governments unable to harness this human resource for beautifying and maintaining public space?

I can imagine many other uses for the park: community vegetable gardens, flower contests, rice field, bee hives, food stand, children’s play area, public art-making space. Given limits to local government budgets, maybe there would be a way to attract corporate sponsors and neighborhood volunteers. If more people were attracted to enter the park, I am sure it would be cleaner and more inviting.

After the jump is a photo inventory of the current park assets, mostly aging structures with a surprising amount of trash. During my visit I noticed a small garden crew and two people on a bench.

Park benches

The benches are old, and so poorly maintained you can only see traces of green paint. The ashtray has not been emptied in a while, and cigarette packs are spilling out. It is very rare to see public garbage in Tokyo, except for this park.

park playground

The play area includes a slide and a fenced-in sand box. I wonder if any children use this space.

park traffic sign

My favorite element is this decades old sign warning kids to watch for traffic. Other amenities include a water fountain, public toilet, clock and public telephone.

park water fountain park toilet park clock park public telephone


  1. Harness local residents to beautify the parks. Ask for ideas then enable them to do the work and have a sense of ownership of the area. Need to uitilise people who live close to the site so they don’t have to travel to get there. Keep it simple.
    Yvonne Nicoll

    1. Hi Yvonne, Thank you for your comment. I am very impressed by your group’s work revegetating and restoring urban wetlands and riparian areas in urban Cairns, Australia. There is so much interest worldwide in remaking urban habitat, and I appreciate your interest in Tokyo Green Space.

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