Restful look at Japanese history: Mikasa Park

Tokyo Life - June 26th, 1987
tokyoweekender_Mikasa Park1

Story & photos by Alex Dean

Warmth reaches down with the light of Sunday noon. A concrete walkway (bordering an access road) leads past a statue, then another, and another—seven in all. The road is momentarily interrupt­ed by the top portion of a sailing ship mounted by a swarm of laughing children. Return to the straight and narrow is short-lived, for the walkway soon broadens to the left where a flowering circle of reds and golds punctuates a bold “M,” welcoming you to Mikasa Park.

Rock garden

A watery murmur pulls you to the left, where a somewhat smaller path winds over, beside and around pools of glistening ripples. The soft rustle of a Tokyo Bay breeze underlies occasional splashes as the young and young-at-heart chal­lenge a series of stepping stones breaking the water’s surface. A slumped form boasting the grayness of age fills his hands and splashes the coolness upward.

Around a bend and the silver of arches, competitive with McDonald’s gold, beckons you onward. You pass the smaller arch and head towards a tall twist of silver overlook­ing the bay. To your right is a new open-air band shell, skirted by tiers of rolling green. Periodically throughout the summer both Japanese and American musical groups will offer free entertainment.

The hour is struck. To your left streams of water rush into the air, reaching forcefully upward before falling earthwards. Droplets fill the air, spraying surrounders and momentarily lifting the heat that is. At the far end a per­fectly symmetrical waterfall, manmade, carries on. It splashes below on slabs of stone placed with harmonious irregularity, a phenomena of Japanese achievement.

A soggy Pamper heads downward as its small owner closes chubby fingers in a nonchalant act of recovery. A young woman, skirt hiked up and tucked in at the waist, arches her feet and wiggles her toes beneath the splashing coolness. Two youngsters play tag among outlying stones. A couple, hair moist and straggly from close proximity to the fountains, stroll towards the towering silver arch, hands clasped, exchanging words and smiles.

The park, located adjacent to the Womble Gate entrance of Yokosuka Naval Base, has been renovated and enlarged over the past two years. It skirts the “museum” battleship Mikasa. The new park was reopened and officially dedicated on Apr. 29, Yokosuka’s 80th birthday.

Your eyes are caught by the fluttering red sun atop the Mikasa as you swing back towards the bay and the memorial battleship. A line peopled with all shapes and sizes moves slowly onboard, mounting stairs to Mikasa’s deck. There is a small charge for admission.

On the outskirts of the park, vendors offer hot buttered corn, yakisoba and other appropriate afternoon fillers. Aromatic smells ride the breeze and tingle your nose, reaching downward, pulling you towards their origin.

And the day goes on.

(Please read related story “How Mikasa won a place in Japanese naval history“).