Before the new year, I took a walk with Alastair Townsend, an American architect in Tokyo, from Yanaka to the new Sky Tree in Mukojima. Above is a sushi restaurant in Kiyokawa, a mostly desolate stretch in the middle of the walk. I was impressed how the shop owners created such a dense jungle in the small space between the restaurant and the sidewalk. The variety and density are magnificent, and it is only with careful observation can you observe the plastic pots supporting this small forest, and the chain link fence buried many years ago in plants.
After the jump, some more images including a decorative rope and bamboo structure covering a sculpted pine tree, the contrast between old and new houses, a residential orange and bonsai persimmon, a pygmy date palm that survives the Tokyo winter, and the oddly named “Sky Tree.”
I was charmed by this bamboo and rope, undulating rope cover for this shrine pine tree. Is it purely decorative, or do the ropes keep out the birds? Is it placed around the tree only in the winter? I love how it rises up and almost invites you inside.
Just inside the strucutre, I noticed these elegant straw decorations, somewhat similar to the Shin Edogawa garden ones I saw in mid-November. I assume they have something to do with the rice harvest and end of the year. Can any of my readers tell me the name?
Yanaka is always full of small green spaces to look at. I particularly enjoyed seeing this one pre-World War II house between its modern neighbors. The color of the wood exterior was so dark that to capture it clearly, I had to bleach out the neighbors. It is interesting, too, that this house has no garage but instead a nice collection of plants outside.
In a tiny space I saw an orange tree growing with lovely large fruits. On a crowded windowsill, a persimmon bonsai.
In Mukojima, a small shop had a lovely mature pygmy date palm, phoenix robelenii. Apparently Tokyo’s winters have been mild enough for this to live at least ten years outside the.
Finally, after an incredibly spicy ramen lunch, we approached the bridge leading across the Sumida, and there was the Sky Tree, half-built and still rising higher. It will be the tallest structure in Tokyo, and will serve as the broadcast tower replacing the nostalgic Tokyo Tower. The design is not particularly exciting, which is too bad since it will be very visible.
I wonder how they gave it the name Sky Tree. I imagine it made someone feel better about erecting such a large and cold monument. It is too bad they could not have incorporated some living, tree-like element in the design.
Alastair made the interesting point that what makes the Eiffel Tower so much nicer than its Tokyo imitators is that 24 hours, 7 days a week anyone can walk below the tower and truly appreciate it. The Tokyo Tower is fenced off with the exception of the fee-based entrance. And the Sky Tower will rise above its rail station developer’s enormous new shopping mall. He also pointed me to the Guangzhou Tower, a larger version of the Kobe Tower. I like the shapes, but red seems a bit unnecessary for the tallest building.
My favorite image of Sky Tree was the promotional ad on the old station steps, showing its progress over time. Japan has a special skill for information graphics.