The same week I participated in the Umi no Mori tree planting, I had the opportunity to re-visit Yume no Shima, Tokyo’s most famous artificial island made of waste. This urban development started in the 1950s. Now it’s a vast area with a sports club, botanic garden, playing fields, semi-wild palm landscape, a marina, and a still functioning incinerator. It’s showing its age with deferred maintenance and sparse usage.
I love how it’s named “Dream Island.” This time I visited the botanic garden. On the outside is a row of papaya trees, which I thought too tropical to grow outdoors in Tokyo. There’s also a row of ceramic frog planters leading to the front door. A green house is a great place to go on a cold day, like a brief tropical holiday at very low cost.
Last night at the sento, I was surprised to see what looked like leeks floating in the outdoor bath. Turns out it was shobu (ショウブ), commonly called sweet flag or acorus calamus. This sword-like plant represents samurais’ bravery, and is a traditional decoration for Boys’ Day (Tango no Sekku, 端午の節句) on May 5. It’s also medicinal.
I am not a big fan of the artificial tree or of Christmas. But Japanese love holidays, imported and national. I wonder whether the stations planned these small seasonal displays, or if they were the initiatives of long-time workers.
I prefer the use of the flowering “Christmas” cactus at the Shinjuku Odakyu station. And below the JR Metro Aoyama Itchome station’s faux snow tree in all its slightly adorned glory.
The City of San Francisco has created a cool program encouraging people to adopt at San Francisco street tree for Christmas instead of purchasing a dead pine tree. City residents can choose between Southern Magnolia, Small Leaf Tristania, Strawberry Tree, and New Zealand Christmas Tree. For US$95 you can pick up a 2 meter potted tree in early December. The trees will be planted on San Francisco streets after the holiday, and adoptive families are invited to help.
This is a smart idea to eliminate the waste of traditional Christmas trees and to involve residents in a very personal way with the city’s goal of doubling its 110,000 street trees. The website has great links to learn more about the human benefits of urban trees, and the current and historical state of San Francisco’s urban forest.