Photo/IllutrationTrees are the big attraction at Rinshi-no-Mori Park. The quiet woodland oasis in the heart of Tokyo attracts a wide variety of birds and wildlife. (Photo by Lisa Vogt)

  • Photo/Illustraion

My parents are not the outdoors type.

Growing up, I’d ask my mother about the names of flowers, and aside from the obvious ones such as roses and tulips, she would say, “I don’t know. We’ll check it later.” Yet I don’t remember ever doing any follow-up research.

When I asked my father the name of a tree, he’d give me super-enlightening answers, like, “It’s an evergreen.” As a little girl, I didn’t say it, but I thought, “Well, yeah, I pretty much guessed that much.”

It was the same for birds, insects and fish. But in all fairness, before the advent of the Internet, finding names of things in nature was challenging, often entailing hours at a public library combing through a pile of reference books.

Today, whip out your smartphone, snap a picture and search using Google Images. If that doesn’t give you the answer, upload the photo to one of numerous “what’s this” sites and presto, mystery solved.

If I had grown up near Rinshi-no-Mori Park in Shinagawa, then my parents would have been able to save face and not have their daughter, decades later, bring up such memories in a public forum such as this newspaper.

The park has an interesting history. It started out as Meguro Experimental Nursery and was established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce back in the Meiji Era, in 1900 to be precise. This was the year Natsume Soseki went to England, the Paris Expo was held, Nitobe Inazo’s “Bushido” was published and the word escalator was trademarked.

It was a time of cultural and scientific flourishing around the world. Seeds and saplings from abroad were collected and planted alongside native species transplanted from different facilities.

Jurisdiction changed to the Forestry Agency, and the space was renamed Ringyo Shikenjo, the Forestry Research Station, and study and experimentation were conducted here until 1978 when control of the site was transferred to a different agency in Tsukuba. Rinshi-no-Mori Park opened to the public in 1989.

Walking among hundreds of old trees, many unseen in other parts of Tokyo, makes for a delightful and refreshing stroll, especially for nature lovers. The park’s diversity attracts many kinds of birds, insects and a couple of non-poisonous snakes, such as the Japanese rat snake, "aodaisho."

There are plaques with tree names and signboards with pictures of commonly sighted wildlife, so if you’re like my parents, rest assured that your stature as all-knowing mommy or daddy can remain intact.

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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.