Tanaka Park is one of those parks that’s in the cut. It’s that one park that always has at least one person there, but it’s rarely ever packed. It’s that park that you pass by and most likely choose not to go inside because you probably get sketchy vibes from it. Follow your heart, passerby.
Located in the Westside of Long Beach at Wardlow and Caspian, Tanaka Park is a small and simple recreational ground. It is 1.4 acres of mainly open grass with a designated jungle gym/child attention grabber facility in its center. There are a few tables with no chairs because people will either break them or steal them. The tables are forged out of a thick, die-cast metal and is securely bolted to the ground. Ain’t nobody stealing that!
On one end of park is a lone basketball court, located right next to the Wardlow entrance. They probably did that to help lure people in with the promise of good ol’ basketball fun. What actually happens here most of the time is people get balled up. Everyone from legit streetballers to students from the local schools (Stephens and Cabrillo) and straight up hood folk play here, and with only one basketball court, it can sometimes get pretty intense.
The park has two entrances: one from the Wardlow side and one from the neighborhood. The entire park is fenced off and is surrounded by apartments on one end, crops from a local grower on the other, and houses everywhere else. This is what I mean when I say it is in the cut: since there is a lack of entrances and because it is surrounded by buildings and other infrastructures, this place functions as a haven of sorts. A haven for what you may ask? Whatever you want! Along with being open space for sports and exercise, this place usually has homeless vagrants chilling here, youth and locals smoking herb, and people also drink here too. This place used to be (and probably still is) a popular kick it spot for gang-bangers and other sketchy people, and there have been incidents here as well (stabbings, shootings, etc.). Nevertheless, people mind their own business for the most part and everyone has a chill time!
Overall, Tanaka Park has a soft, nostalgic spot in my heart. I’ve experienced a lot here — I used to like a girl who lived nearby the park and I used to kick it with homies here regularly, oftentimes getting sucked into hours of playing hacky sack. Despite the fact that the area might not be considered the safest place for people, the location has been getting better. There’s nothing fancy here and I feel that the park perfectly represents the community and its wants and needs. People live a much more simple life in the hood and this park parallels this lifestyle because it provides park goers with just the necessities. Essentially, this park is a place where one can chill and relax, and go about their own business without being bothered. It’s a place where people of questionable background and people of honest intention can both congregate in search for a temporary relief from reality. Tanaka ultimately provides the recreationalist with the opportunity to imagine how they want to use the landscape. As Kawabata Makoto, guitarist of Acid Mothers Temple says, “do what you want, don’t do what you don’t want.”