Arakawa river red floodgate with cherry trees in full bloom


A Japanese engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal created this important floodgate and canal alongside the Arakawa River in the 1920s. The red paint and the cherry blossoms make it scenic as well as functional.

UPDATE: Above is the film version, which took awhile to be developed. The colors seem much richer than the digital iPhone image below.


Sun lit mansion on way to Nodai campus



Between Kyodo station and Nodai’s campus, a few old mansions remain with large yards and mature trees. The bicycling student’s brown hair matches the wood fence.

Launching new Japanese Gardens Outside Japan website for Nodai


海外の日本庭園についての新しいサイトが立ち上げになりました。このサイトには、アフリカからロシアまで、何百もの日本庭園が紹介されています。サイトのスポンサーは著名な専門家である東京農業大学の鈴木誠教授です。日本庭園は生きた芸術作品であるため、地域社会との継続した様々なサポートが必要です。きれいなサイトデザインとロゴは、イアン・リナムさん(Ian Lynam)のおかげです。よろしくお願いいたします!

I am very pleased to announce a new website that provides scholarly and general public information about the hundreds of Japanese gardens outside Japan. This project puts online the database of Tokyo University of Agriculture’s Professor Makoto SUZUKI, the world’s expert on this unique Japanese cultural export. There are Japanese gardens in six continents, in conditions ranging from arid Australia to urban Brazil. I hope that my blog readers may have the opportunity to visit one of these living art works near where they live or travel.

A special thanks to the incomparably talented Ian Lynam, who created the visual design and the logo for the new Center for International Japanese Garden Studies.

nodai_garden_brooklyn_botanic_B Nodai_CIJGS_logo_t

Late crop of eggplants, red peppers, and daikon at Setagaya mini-farm



Viewed through a chain link fence, ripe eggplants and chile peppers are growing in a small farm between the road and some apartments. I enjoy seeing this farm on my bike ride to Nodai.

Gorgeous suburban road leading to Nodai campus


This road beneath a canopy of street trees leads to the Nodai campus from Chitose Funabashi. When I commute there by bike, it makes a lovely end to my ride.

Balloon vine is a fun summer climber


On the long walk from Kyodo station to Nodai (Tokyo University of Agriculture), there’s a house and large garden where the residents are always gardening. This year they created a huge, two meter high trellis of fusenkazura (フウセンカズラ). The name is literally balloon kudzu, and despite looking delicate, it’s very hardy. The vine produces lots of white flowers, followed by a multitude of green balls that then turn orange. This year, I’m growing two specimens on our balcony.

Old grove on Nodai campus


Like all of Tokyo, the Nodai campus seems to be in a state of constant demolition and reconstruction. I like how they have preserved this old grove of tall trees that remind you that this Agricultural school has a one hundred plus year history as a center of innovation and learning.

Small corn field in Setagaya


To get to Nodai, I bike along a long and straight road covering an old water pipe. Last time I saw this small corn field in Setagaya, surrounded by various types of dense housing.

Professor Owl teaches a class of animals, near Nodai campus


What a happy classroom taught by professor owl. Yuki spotted this cute diorama in the gap space in a resident’s cinderblock wall, between Nodai and the Kyodo station. What a tiny surprise.

“We are people who scoop. Environmentally active students.” That’s the welcome message for prospective students.

.@ilynam とユキさんと一緒に農大に来て、強い雨に降られました。入口に、「すくう人。環境学生』のポスターを見て、うれしくなりました。鈴木先生のために、海外に作られた日本庭園のことについて学べるサイトを作ります。デザインと庭と画像と土を一緒にするので、このプロジェクットは楽しいです。

It was raining when @ilynam and Yuki joined me for the first meeting to create a website for the 500 garden database of Japanese gardens outside Japan, a project I am helping Suzuki sensei with this year.

At the entrance to the school, somehow this rainy scene was an apt start for this exciting project where we will mix design, gardens, pixels, and soil. Bringing this knowledge online will be very helpful for people around the world who are interested in knowing about and visiting hundreds of Japanese gardens in dozens of countries. And working with design stars Ian and Yuki, I am confident that we can combine simplicity and beauty in the interface.

The banner offering campus tours for new students says, “We are people who scoop. Environmentally active students.” The word sukuu means “scoop” and also “save.”

Winter cherry trees in Adachi-ku


Thanks to Professor Suzuki Makoto at Nodai, I went on a bus tour of Adachi ward’s cherry trees. They are celebrating the ward’s role in the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry trees to Washington DC, where they are now a landmark landscape along the Potomac.

It was fun to see how many local people turned out for the tour and ward office symposium. Adachi-ku continues to cultivate many types of cherry trees, including this winter blooming one. Unfortunately, many of the open spaces for tree-planting are marginal spaces: below the high voltage power lines, and along the Arakawa River, where they are drowned out by multiple levels of elevated freeway.

Like most of Tokyo, it all depends in which direction you’re looking. Adachi-ku is proud also that it retains many views of Mount Fuji. Many of these views include the river and also smokestacks and factories.

Cherry trees at schools

It is a custom in Tokyo and perhaps throughout Japan to have cherry trees at schools, from elementary to universities. Cherry blossoms occur just as the new school year is beginning.

Above is a beautiful row of cherry trees at Nodai, alongside the new playing field. Below is the elementary school near our apartment.

Unlike hanami parties, seeing sakura at schools occurs throughout the city and during the normal course of your day, while walking, commuting, or going to class or school events. At Nodai, I was heading to a party at the Garden Laboratory marking the new school year. The school I pass often on my way to the JR station.

Harvard Club of Japan talk at Temple University

Please come to a free talk about Tokyo Green Space, sponsored by the Harvard Club of Japan and hosted at Temple University. Details below:

Wednesday, April 14, Harvard Club of Japan event at Temple University (English only)
DATE/TIME    Wednesday April 14, 2010 from 7pm to 9pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
ADMISSION   FREE! Please bring your own bento or snack
LOCATION     Temple University, Azabu Hall, Room 206

2 Upcoming Talks

If you’re in Tokyo, you are invited to attend two free talks I am giving soon through the British Council and the Harvard Club of Japan. Here’s the info:

Monday, April 5, Green Leaders Forum at the British Council near Iidabashi (In English with simultaneous Japanese translation)
DATE/TIME    Monday April 5, 2010 from 7pm to 9pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
ADMISSION   FREE! Includes wine, soft drinks and snacks
LOCATION     British Council, Iidabashi Station
(Note: Also speaking is Dr. Junichi Fujino, Senior Climate Policy Researcher, National Institute for Environmental Studies, NIES)

4月5日、月曜日、 Green Leaders Forum、英国文化振興会にて。日本語と英語の同時通訳があります。飯田橋の近くです。

Wednesday, April 14, Harvard Club of Japan event at Temple University (English only)
DATE/TIME    Wednesday April 14, 2010 from 7pm to 9pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
ADMISSION   FREE! Please bring your own bento or snack
LOCATION     Temple University, Azabu Hall, Room 206


Hakone gardens, Meiji house, and shrine

Now that I have posted about Hakone moss outside the organized visit, I will also share some images from the Nodai school trip. Above you can see how many students, faculty, and research fellows participated on the trip by counting the shoes.

We stayed at Hotel Yoshiike, a ryokan with an amazing Kyoto style stroll garden that is large and other worldly. The buildings are very 1960s style boxes, but the gardens make you lose track of both time and place. There is something truly masterful about the streams and pond, the wandering paths, the careful plantings and attentive maintenance.

In addition to appreciating the garden, there were enormous meals, much drinking, and onsen bathing.

The other stunning garden we saw was designed for Yamada Denki’s corporate villa by one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary landscape designer, Sakakibara Hachiro, who also created the modern Japanese garden at Tokyo MidTown. The contrast between the two gardens is stunning: while Yoshiike is flat and terraced, Sakakibara’s is vertical and borrows from the surrounding landscape of steep, forested hills. There is a lot of drama and movement in the garden in terms of waterfalls and paths.

The Tenseien shrine turns a (mostly?) natural waterfall into a shrine. I had never seen the Shinto rope and paper decorations attached to a waterfall.

We also visited this charming Meiji-era house, a small “out-building” attached to a larger villa. The image at the top with the shoes came from this entrance.

More photos after the jump.

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