Why would anyone coat a park in grey dust?

My twelve month old daughter loves the local parks here in Tokyo. In fact, so busy is she sitting on the ground making grey dust clouds, putting grey dust on her clothes, tasting grey dust etc, that she doesn’t find time to try any of the swings, slides etc that she used to explore in our neighbourhood parks in Seoul (which were coated in undistracting soft matting of some kind). Not sure the local government specifically set it up for the entertainment of one year olds. The only possible reasons I could come up with:

– Kids less likely to hurt themselves than on most surfaces (obviously the most important thing in Ni-go-chuu-i-kudasai-ppon)

– Less likelihood of permanent stains than on grass

– Cheap and easy to maintain (an influence on so many things with a flat economy for basically twenty years and totally squeezed government budgets that are not helped by the profligacy of the bubble years, bubble years that local ward governments in Seoul seem to be going through in Seoul right now…)

Much more colourful and amusing posts on parks from the much missed Englishman in Osaka:

Playgrounds of the world

Puny parks



  1. August 29, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    This may relate to something my friend (who teaches in Korea) and I were talking about: why are the playgrounds/schoolyards/PE areas/exercise areas in Korean and Japanese schools made of dirt, too? You can inevitably spot schools on Google Earth by the (grim-looking, to us) square of brown or grey earth, which at most American schools would be made of grass. There might be a dirt area for baseball and a concrete/asphalt area for basketball/other games and activities, but there’d be lots of grass at most schools (both for general activities and organized ones–many or most schools at least have a soccer field [I do mean international football, not American football since elementary schools and schools too small for teams often play soccer]). It looks so depressing to me to have only a dirt square there, especially when I think that many of the kids probably live in apartment buildings. I realize there are cultural issues here, but…hmm…it does seem a bit unhealthy to me!

  2. alexcase said,

    August 29, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Could it be the influence of baseball?? Or the danger of grass stains, which the cold water washing machines that are still very common in Japan and fairly common in Korea would have problems getting out??

    One more thing that occurs to me is whether it is connected to these kinds of places usually being where you should go if there is an earthquake, fire, etc (hinanjo?? 避難所) Grass would both turn into a mush if there were loads of people and possibly be a fire hazard if it was dry

    Then again, the obsession with grass is a very British and American thing, most European countries like France have very limited supplies and keep you well off what there is

  3. alexcase said,

    August 30, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Alternatively, maybe the Yakuza have the local monopoly on grey dust and stop all grass dealers from muscling in on their territory

  4. August 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    True enough–we are a little too obsessed with grass, and it’s not especially healthy for the planet, especially in places like California where it’s dry so much of the year (and thus must be irrigated). Those grassy areas are emergency assembly points here, too, though, and we have the same quake risks and even worse fire risks.

    The other theory is plausible. ;)

  5. alexcase said,

    August 31, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Maybe a large lawn would drive a perfectionist Japanese park keeper nuts with overwork…

  6. alexcase said,

    February 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Just read that a good proportion of the parks in Tokyo were created as evacuation areas (rather than leisure areas) after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which might help explain why many of them are only suitable for that purpose

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