Japan: a walk in the park

cherry blossom

I love a walk in the park in Japan … you never know what you’re going to see around the next bend in the path …

… perhaps a couple taking their ferret out for a stroll?

Having spent a year walking round the local park in Bedford, I can faithfully report that all I ever saw were people walking or sitting on a bench drinking takeaway coffee. But in Japan people do much more interesting things in the park. At this time of year, of course, everyone is enjoying the cherry blossom, having picnics under the trees and taking photos.

Even cool dudes photograph cherry blossom …

But it’s all the other things that go on in the park that fascinate me, especially given the Japanese reputation for being very reserved and not wanting to stand out from the crowd. I wonder whether the huge popularity of cosplay over here is because it allows you to become a different person and escape from conforming to the norm, just for a short time.

I thought these four were girls at first because of their long hair, it was only when they started speaking that I realised they were men – all having a great time doing their superhero photoshoot … in masks and faceshields.

Then I came across a couple of manga characters hiding in the trees

I’m sure I recognise the one with the red hair from a Kabuki play I saw last time I was here – but I don’t remember him having a bionic arm, so maybe this is a mix and match approach. And I love the flesh-coloured quilted tunic which makes him look as though he’s got an amazing six-pack.

Pre-wedding photos in the park are a big thing too. This girl is all dressed up in Western wedding style for her friends to take pictures – but I don’t think many Western brides actually wear jeans under their dress.

There was no groom in evidence, so I wondered if this was a solo wedding, something which has existed in Japan since 2014. If you don’t have a significant other, but you want the whole wedding experience, you can marry yourself. The two-day wedding package includes dress hire, professional make-up and a photo shoot, and many women have apparently reported a boost to their self-esteem following a public declaration of love to their single self.

Given the very traditional roles of men and women in a Japanese marriage, the solo wedding is a way for a woman to enjoy her big day without any of the subsequent housework and drudgery … sounds like a winner to me.