In the Shadow of the Mouse: Kasai Marine Park
Kasai Marine Park is rare among Ramsar sites in that it is artificial. In 2018, it also became Tokyo’s first Ramsar site. Other than being a Tokyo-wan Bay Ramsar wetland, the main thing that Kasai Marine Park shares with Yatsu-higata is the fact that it probably shouldn’t exist at all! 😊
Like many other coastal wetlands in Japan, the formerly extensive tidal flat was reclaimed for industrial and residential use in the post-war rapid development period. Previously the tidal flat had been an integral part of the lives of the local people in terms of fishing, seaweed cultivation and recreation, etc. However, the community lost its connection to the tidal flat due to the development. Also, as Edogawa Ward is a low-lying area, a high levee was built that created a physical barrier between the local residents and the former tidal flat.
However, as so often happens in wetlands conservation in Japan, a pivotal figure stepped up to save the tidal flat. In the late 1960s, a visionary Tokyo Governor, Ryokichi Minobe, decided that Tokyo needed a vital tidal flat for recreation and building environmental consciousness. He proposed a program to recover a portion of the Kasai tidal flats by tearing down the levees and reconstructing the tidal flat with sand imported from other parts of Japan. The Tokyo Government formally approved a plan to create Kasai Marine Park (And the adjacent Kasai Rinkai Park) in 1972. The park was opened in 1989 as a site for environmental conservation and recreation.
Kasai Marine Park consists of 2 artificial beaches: West Beach and East Beach. The East Beach is a protected area for wildlife, while the West Beach is open to recreational activities. Swimming is even permitted in the West Beach in certain parts of the year and during special events. The tidal flat is rather small, with light mud. Its biggest attraction is its location and easy accessibility. The Kasai-Rinkai Park Station is only about a 15-minute ride from central Tokyo. Also, if after sunning on the beach or wading in the water, you decide that you want some kitchen car food or a ride on the 117m Ferris Wheel, you can just stroll over to the connected Kasai Rinkai Park, which has a real amusement park feel to it.
Speaking of which, you know that something is different about Kasai Marine Park when you begin your journey in Tokyo Station. As you walk through the station towards the JR Keiyo Line platform (About 10 minutes from the other main train lines), you notice that there is an exceptionally large number of young people: especially young women. Not only that, but these people look happy (Unlike typical Japanese train riders, who usually appear to be auditioning for roles in a Noh play😊)! The mood inside the train cars is cheerful and they are filled with young people and families.
As you walk along the West Beach of the Kasai Marine Park, you can see resort hotels and fantastic looking towers and buildings in the distance. While, of course, there is no direct connection, you can almost imagine hearing someone singing “Who’s the leader of the club…?”😊