Marunouchi Street Park: An Urban Respite

Even in the most brutal heat of the Tokyo summer, the opportunity to sit outside relaxing in leafy shade is a welcome one.

In Tokyo’s Marunouchi business district, just a block from Tokyo Station is a leafy cobblestone street known as Marunouchi Nakadori (or just “Nakadori” to people who spend much time there). As the business district has modernized and “gentrified”, Nakadori, which stretches just over a kilometer, has become known for its relaxed atmosphere, restaurants, boutiques, and luxury brand shops. In winter is is also known for the white twinkling lights in its stately zelkova trees.

In Summer 2021 (through September 13, 2021), 300 meters of Nakadori (between Gyoko-dori and Babasaki-dori) has been turned into Marunouchi Street Park, making it the perfect urban location to enjoy fresh air, and maybe a cool drink, in a safe, socially-distant environment.

Converting the street to a park has involved adding wooden decking, wood chips in some seating areas, and even grass and shrubbery. It actually has a park-like feel.

The “park” has a number of distinctive features to add to its usefulness and for the pleasure of its patrons. In these days of “work from anywhere”, the park even has powered workstations. In case the shade and greenery aren’t enough, hoses are strung above the park providing a cooling water mist. (You can easily spot the mist in these photos–it’s the part that looks out of focus.)

The ability to sit in the park and work is just one small aspect of how the park can be used. There are also seating areas where visitors can relax and enjoy a drink (currently non-alcoholic only, alas) or snack purchased from one of three food vans serving the park (one in each block). Or just read a book or look at your device (we are all addicted to our devices these days, aren’t we?).

Some of the seating is specifically reserved to provide al fresco dining for patrons of some of the restaurants on Nakadori, another way to enjoy the park.

The park also has play space, like oddly-bowed ping pong tables and whatever the heck those bouncy ball things are.

Another form is “play” is available in the form of a colorful undercover piano where anyone can sit down and serenade the others in the area. (Bring your own sheet music.)

And there are areas where visitors can literally kick off their shoes and “chill”. While these children seem quite comfortable in the hammocks, I earlier observed some adults struggling to get in and out. Maybe the big net thing-ies are easier to cope with.

Nakadori is home to permanent artwork that integrates smoothly with the “park” concept of this temporary summertime measure. The below are just a sampling of the various sculptures visitors can enjoy throughout the park.

Although Marunouchi Street Park is only a temporary arrangement that will be gone in another month, it’s a delightful spot to spend a summer afternoon. Let us hope it becomes a permanent seasonal feature, just as the wintertime lights have done.

© 2021 and Vicki L. Beyer
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