Do you have a healthy, loving relationship with water? Are you (cough!) a hydrophile?
Shinsuikōen are urban stream-based parks that first emerged in Tokyo in the late 1960s, in an attempt to control flooding and pollution in the city’s many small rivers and streams and also to encourage residents’ positive psychological and spiritual links to water.
« Shin » is the kanji for familiarity or intimacy and « sui » is of course water. Havens for duck families, tiny fish, horrible clouds of midges, vigilant cormorants, splish-sploshing kids and dozing or power-walking old-timers, they vividly reflect the changing seasons and offer compact strips of peace and healing a step away from roaring trucks, zig-zagging pavement mamachari racers and politicians bellowing hideously and white-gloved into megaphones.
My part of town, Edogawa-ku, is particularly rich in them. I have a place in my heart for all of them as walking, relaxing and reading spots, but my favourite is Shimokoiwa Shinsuiryokudo, translated on Google Maps, somewhat distressingly, as Shimokoiwa Hydrophile Green Road.
This HGR runs 950 occasionally interrupted metres from the Shinnakagawa River deep into the large and lively town of Koiwa. The section I like best is the narrowest and stillest. If you walk south from Koiwa Station along the right side of the superb Flower Road shopping street and turn right after Koiwa Ekidori bus stop, there it is. A very narrow stream? A lovely drain?
There are houses either side so it’s important to tread softly, but nobody will mind if you get a beer from a Flower Road conbini or super and sit yourself on a rock to drink about life. The cats on other rocks might stare. Yes, you are a notorious hydrophile, but don’t let them judge you. Try stepping across the stream’s width on one of the tiny, beautiful, individually-named bridges. And then back. There is absolutely no need for these bridges, nor for them to have names, and that’s why I love them.