“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”– The Phantom Tollbooth
Sometimes, living in the city can be stressful, physically, and mentally. It gives me brain fatigue as I am constantly alert —always remaining vigilant of all the chaos around me. Once in a while, I like to turn off my thoughts and stare into space with quiet fascination. I just want to stare at something beautiful, breath fully, and sigh, ‘ahhhhh’. To take in the space around me. To renew.
It’s hard to find such a space in a busy city like Toronto or Mississauga, especially during cherry blossom season. There is always chaos in Toronto’s High Park. So when my sister mentioned Kariya Park, a tranquil Japanese-inspired garden amidst the bustling city of Mississauga, I had to go.
Kariya, Japan, located fifteen kilometres south-west of Nagoya, between Kyoto and Tokyo is a busy city of 149,030 people. Since 1981, Mississauga and Kariya have held a sister-city relationship, exchanging friendship and cultural delegations. On July 7, 1992, to commemorate and preserve this kindred relationship between the two cities, Kariya Park was officially opened in Mississauga. At Kariya Park, in the heart of Mississauga, a variety of Japanese-inspired plants and trees are spread throughout the park including Japanese Irises, Red-bud, Ginkgo, Sweet-gum, Tree Peonies, Katsura, the beautiful Japanese Maple and many water-loving plants.
Enjoying the Cherry Blossom in Kariya Park
The moment you first step into the garden gate of Kariya Park, you forget where you really are —in the heart of Mississauga, near the bustling Square One mall, full of cars, taxis and buses speeding by. Inside the park, the only sound you hear are the gentle rolling of water cascading through rocks, ducks splashing in the pond, and the sound of children’s laughter as you take in the panorama of cherry blossoms that unfolds before you. Amidst the bustle of the city, during rush hour, I was able to find my moment of quiet fascination.
Fun Fact: Did you know that cherry blossoms and their leaves are actually edible? They are used in Japan to bring out flavour in traditional confectionaries, buns and other desserts. And at special events, and festivals, they are drunk in place of green tea. However, do not consume a large amount of the leaves. It contain coumarin, which have a pleasant and sweet odor, but a bitter taste. It can be toxic to the kidneys and liver in very high dosages.
During cherry blossom season in Toronto, there’s never a quiet moment in High Park, either you’re fighting for parking, or you’re fighting for the best spot to take that awesome selfie photo you can showcase on Facebook or Instagram. At Kariya Park, with the cherry blossom in full bloom, I was able to sit on my picnic mat, and enjoy my guilty pleasure of the week, a book titled, ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin‘. Yes, I am unofficially advertising it, as I have waited for months for the continuation.
When is the best time to view cherry blossoms in Toronto? Visit this website to see cherry blossom bloom predictions, and date range.
While I read, my boyfriend and my sister enjoyed their picnic spread of sandwiches and fruits, lazily watching the ducks take flight. Watching them land gracefully on the pond, creating satisfying ripples across the surface of the water. Breathing in fresh air, as we let the time tick by. For awhile, that’s all we did, while sitting there under the cherry blossom in full bloom.
After our much-needed time of relaxation, we started strolling around and came upon one of the focal point of the park —the Japanese-style Pavilion oriented toward both the pond and the exterior Zen garden. It is constructed with two sections; one section representing Mississauga, and the other representing Kariya, with the Friendship Bell, located in the middle. The Friendship Bell, sponsored in part by the Main Street Ontario (Ontario 2000) funding program, was cast in Japan in the year 2001, to commemorate, and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the sister-city’s relationship. This bronze bell made to last forever is a symbol of friendship between the two cities and is rung on ceremonial occasions.
There are iris flowers on the bell and the symbol of Kariya City —a wild goose (Kari) about to take flight and a figure 8 (Ya), both symbolic of future development in the city. See what they did there? If you combine the two words (Kari and Ya), you get the name of the city – Kariya! And if you take a closer look at the bronze bell, you will notice an inscription: “By welcoming the new century this bell is produced as a symbol of everlasting friendship between the City of Mississauga and the City of Kariya”.
Kariya Park opening hours are between 7:00 am to 9:00 pm with areas you can park your car, on the street. These street parking are limited, and comes with a small fee. If there`s no more space, you could park at Square One Shopping Mall and walk over.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of Kariya Park. A beautiful, and serene place in the middle of a bustling city. Of the many ways to de-stress from a busy city life, this one is my favourite. To visit a park, and enjoy it in quiet fascination, to breathe in the air and take a moment to absorb the beautiful views that surround you.
For you, is there a favourite park or hidden gem in your city, or near your hometown where you like to empty your mind?