The city of Tokyo is in a weird spot, where people of all races, nationalities, ages and sexual orientations flock together in the midst of a growing and evolving multiculturalism.
But one area is especially sensitive to the growing influence of one group: Japanese friendship garden.
“The Japanese are known for being very welcoming,” said Shigeru Nagashima, the city’s former mayor who helped launch the garden.
“But I think people are a little uncomfortable because they think there’s this weird new world of Japanese people.”
The garden’s popularity has soared in recent years, as Japanese tourists have made their way to the island nation to enjoy its many parks, museums, restaurants and shopping malls.
But for some, its proximity to a sprawling downtown is a concern.
“We’re just a few minutes from the beach, a few blocks from the metro, so people tend to think there are other people here,” said Miyoko Tatsumi, an artist and a resident of the Japanese Friendship Garden.
“It’s a very welcoming place.”
While Japanese and other Asian communities are trying to work together on cultural and social issues, many of the garden’s residents are feeling uncomfortable about it.
Some are angry at what they see as the city-run garden’s increasing role in cultural and societal clashes.
“I feel like there’s a lot of conflict between the garden and the city because there are some Japanese people who are against it,” said Chikako Miyagi, a 26-year-old art teacher.
“I don’t think they’re right, but I feel they should understand what’s going on and try to make things better.”
The Garden’s popularity in the city also raises concerns about the gardeners’ willingness to share their views.
“They want to make friends, they want to create friendships and that’s fine,” said Nagashimas sister, Miyoko, who is in charge of the city garden.
But not everyone is happy about the growing community.
The Japanese Friendship Gardens Association says its members have faced hostility at the garden, even from residents who have taken issue with their activities.
“Some of them have said that they’ve seen the Japanese friends at the Garden and thought they’re not nice,” Nagashino said.
“We don’t feel that way.
They’re here, we’re living in Japan, we don’t have to live in this country.”
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