Saturday, October 4, 2008


Day seventy-five: Kanfu-tei

¥500 for matcha and namagashi

Easily accessible from downtown Tokyo via the westbound Chuo line, Tachikawa's Showa Kinen Koen (Showa Memorial Park) is a boon to anyone craving fresh air, green vistas, and room to move around. The sprawling park was built on the grounds of a decommissioned military base and opened to commemorate the 50th year of the Showa Era (1976). Walking paths, a small train, and a 14km bike loop connect the park's numerous zones, which include a games meadow, a dragonfly marsh, and a boulevard of towering ginko trees. The Children's Forest is a real threat to my sense of adult decorum; I find it nearly impossible not to dash up the Aztec pyramid or dart around the fog maze, and I get giddy just looking at the undulating white range of trampoline hills (below, left).

While not old, the "Japanese-style" garden feels fully mature, and rewards the attentive visitor with rich textures and satisfying details. The heart of the garden is a large, curvaceous reflecting pond, anchored on its western shore by Kanfu-tei, a teahouse in the traditional sukiya style. At any time of year, Kanfu-tei is a pleasant place to relax and recharge after partaking of Showa's more strenuous pleasures. Late on a tranquil afternoon in early autumn, there's nothing nicer than joining the teahouse's other customers on the porch, watching the dusk gather over the pond and the bats beginning breakfast, as you sip hot matcha and nibble a seasonal beanpaste sweet.

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