Life stories: Kariya Park

What a way-too-fast Reading Week this has been. Can’t believe it’s already Friday. At some point I should probably be opening up the notes for one of my courses, as I have a midterm coming up on Wednesday, but I can’t be bothered just yet. It has already been a fairly busy day for me; I hung out with a friend at a record store and then headed over to school to quickly return the voice recorder I borrowed for the week.

On the bus home today I was wondering what I could possibly write about, and I realized I haven’t done a life story for quite some time, so today I’ll be talking about a place that’s very near and dear to my heart.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how much I dislike the city I live in right now, and how much I would love to be in Toronto. But there is one place in Mississauga that I’ll likely never forget, and that is Kariya Park. Mississauga happens to be sister cities with Kariya, which is located in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan.

As a commemoration of this sisterhood (though I don’t really know what being a sister city means, exactly), the city of Mississauga opened up Kariya Park, a rather beautiful place to visit in the spring (assuming spring arrives when it should, and not early or late). It has a large bell (which can no longer be struck, unfortunately), a pond that has been home to koi, ducks, turtles and more, and most importantly some absolutely beautiful trees that house cherry blossoms in the spring.

As a bit of background, I have been fascinated with Japan for many years, though now slightly less so than before. In my early high school years I was deeply into anime and manga, and it inspired me for a time to try and learn Japanese. That didn’t work out so well, but at the very least I know how to pronounce Japanese words.

Before high school I had only visited Kariya Park a few times in my life, and so at some point I came up with an idea of a Kariya Park picnic. Surprisingly, this idea took off. The plan was simple; my friends and I would meet at the nearby community centre on Victoria Day and then walk to the park. We all pitched in for food and such, so it made for a pretty good picnic every year. The weather in our first year of the picnic, I recall, was really terrible at first, but eventually became sunny enough to permit a good picnic. The years after that the weather was variable, but we never had to deal with pouring rain- at the worst we had a few drizzles, but nothing picnic-ruining.

Most years, our picnics would coincide well with the blooming of the cherry blossoms. One year I think I brought a digital camera and it produced some really great photos of my friends and I surrounded by the brilliant pink cherry blossoms. One year the cherry blossoms had already fallen; spring came a little too early.

I wish the picnics could have gone on every year annually. The last picnic happened in 2011. In 2012, after having initiated the organization of the picnic for something like five years, I decided I wasn’t going to do anything unless someone asked about the picnic. No one did, and so Victoria Day of 2012 passed unceremoniously, and perhaps a little bitterly on my end.

But what’s done is done. It was a nice tradition to have, and it brought a lot of my friends together for a time. But as the nature of my friendship with them changed, so too did our rituals.

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