I love this giant hedge framing a modern house in Nakano. It’s even more beautiful at night, which is when we discovered it on a walk through the neighborhood.
The house is mostly concrete with wood on the second floor balconies and some bamboo as a screen for the ground floor. I love how the hedge opens up to provide an entrance to the house (and a permeable parking space). The outer hedge is then echoed by a shorter inner hedge close to the ground floor windows. On the right side, there’s a small gap and room to park a few bicycles. It’s a great combination of privacy and opening, concrete structure and plant life.
I like how the gardener has used bamboo poles to train the hedge into an arch over the entrance. It’s a simple and elegant support.
Viewed from the side, the house disappears behind the thick greenery. Usually I am a fan of much greater plant variety, but this residential garden shows how much can be achieved with a single species.
I love these water plants outside of Shizen in Sendagaya. Shizen is a stylish pottery, homewares, and plant store on the ground floor, with a great restaurant with very reasonably priced lunch specials on the second floor, and a roof garden. A simple bowl with plants can really add visual impact to a central city sidewalk.
A friend told me to check out this green “bus stop” between Kabukicho and Hanazono Shrine. This incredible vine providing shade for the sidewalk is no longer a bus stop, but is in front of Shinjuku’s ward office. As I’ve written before, the wards seem to be leading Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government in creating innovative green spaces on their properties.
What’s great about this sidewalk awning is that it requires minimal space and maintenance, yet impacts thousands of people coming to the ward office, or just passing by on this busy street. Two very kind city workers involved with green space took time out to talk with me about the sidewalk, facade, and roof greening.
The sidewalk awning is a combination of two hardy vines: nozenzakura (ノウゼンカズラ in Japanese or Campsis grandiflora in Latin) with orange flowers, which I have seen in my neighborhood blooming all summer.
The other vine is akebi (アケビ, also called Akebia in English), which flowers and fruits. Wikipedia says that it is frequently mentioned in Japanese literature and evokes images of pastoral landscapes; it’s also considered an invasive in New Zealand and parts of the United States. Here in the heart of Shinjuku, it’s a very attractive shade plant with the added bonus of having distinct seasons.
It was nice to see that parts of the facade have vertical plantings, although a simple full facade retrofit would modernize and make more attractive the 1960s building.
The city workers also showed off the roof garden, which has different areas including edibles, herbs, and water plants. It was sad that most of the usage seems to be a place for smokers to congregate. I wonder how they can make the space more attractive for non-smoking workers and neighbors.
It would be cool to see a complete redesign of the entire usable surface of the ward office to eliminate the dead space. Too much of the facade is monotonous concrete with minimal pattern, and too much of the plaza in front and along the side is hard surfaces. A redesign could capture the imagination of residents, retailers, and office owners.
I took this photo a month ago, and our balcony garden is now even more lush. It’s amazing how much incredible heat and daily watering can increase bio-mass!
It’s amazing what you can fit in a sunny narrow space. I have six mini-watermelons ripening on the railing and green net, three Saipan lemons, two types of morning glory, the 5bai midori satoyama boxes bushing out, cucumbers still flowering and creating fast food, and some random flowers including mini-sunflowers, abutilon, and Suntory hybrids ミリオンベル (million bell) and アズーロコンパクト. Plus there’s basil, parsley, and thyme, all of which I put into my bolognese pasta lunch today.
The floor area is full with just enough room to walk through for watering. The vertical space is about half full with the net and some additional twine. I like how the old washing machine is nearly hidden by plants.
Some failures included corn, with tiny ears that formed and then turned brown. The rose which was so outrageously pumped up when purchased has hardly bloomed since. The incredible heat this month killed my first bonsai, a Japanese maple (もみじ) in a tiny pot.
Some surprises included the late growing bitter melon (ゴーヤー) now shooting up. I planted last year’s seed in April, and it hardly grew until about three weeks ago. Now it’s two meters tall, and perhaps will produce a few vegetables before typhoon season. Bitter melon tastes great with ground pork!
My friend Matthew, who now works at Sinajina, pruned my pine bonsai. Apparently now is the time to start thinking about shaping it and preparing it to look its most beautiful for the new year. I wonder how to keep my tiny garden green during winter.
Today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday) is Koenji’s massive Awaodori street festival: 188 groups, 12,000 dancers, from the JR Koenji station to the Marunouchi Shin Koenji station. It’s one of Tokyo’s three largest summer festivals, and a lot of fun. A million people are expected.
TIP: Take the Marunouchi line to Shin Koenji station. Much less crowded so you can see dance better.
These giant sidewalk sunflowers are in full bloom and towering over the pedestrians. I am amazed by their height, and the cheer they bring to this marginal space between the sidewalk and street in Sendagaya. They are much taller now than just a few weeks ago.
Suddenly dozens of white lilies appeared below the oaks and above the long grasses in this planter bed in front of Taikukan in Sendagaya. I like the juxtaposition of the manicured oaks, the unmowed grasses, and the unexpected summer flowers.
I noticed this interesting semi-wild, semi-cultivated space alongside a busy Yoyogi road and in between two train tracks, an elevated overpass, and a convenience store. It shows you what minimal effort and Tokyo’s abundant rain can do to create a space that is lush and full of summer flowers. I like the mix of wildness and anonymous stewardship. The results are such a contrast with poorly organized city efforts like this Shibuya Greening Project, documented by Chris on Tokyo DIY Gardening, which seem doomed to rapid failure.
There are many small creeks in Tokyo that have been turned into pedestrian paths. In my neighborhood, they are modestly landscaped. In Shinjuku, there’s Shinjuku Yuhodo Koen Shiki no Machi (新宿遊歩道公園四季の道), an amazing green corridor with mature trees between the department stores of San Chome, Hanazono Shrine, the packed bars of Golden Gai, and Kabukicho.
Oddly, my very detailed Tokyo City Atlas does not include the path’s name. It’s easy to miss it, but once inside it feels like a magical passageway, full of life during the day and at night. Green corridors take up minimal space, and are perhaps more useful than small parks since provide a path between places.
Leaving a meeting recently, I walked through some back streets of Aoyama, and came across this amazing sidewalk garden. The contrast between the potted plant garden and the slick glass building was intriguing. The aesthetics, density and plant selection made me realize quickly that this was not an amateur garden.
Inside this amazing vertical forest is Kaza Hana, a florist, garden design company, cafe and bar. The exterior merits further study for its vertical garden construction, its mix of Japanese garden plants and exotics, and masterful mix of color, texture, and form.
Completely enchanted, I decided to relax and enjoy lunch there as well. Inside, the jungle immersion theme continues, with plants everywhere, hanging sculptures, and a flower shop along one wall. I was fortunate to have a long chat with a flower instructor, Yoshida Miho, who later sent me her blog full of wonderful flower photos and a description of her work with plant therapy and “natural life design.”
Yoshida-san explained that Kaza Hana’s owner is a garden designer named Ishihara Kazuyuki (石原和幸). Ishihara-san has won three consecutive gold medals at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. This fall he will also be showing his work at the 2010 Gardening World Cup this October in Nagasaki; you can see his profile and portfolio on their site. I believe Ishihara-san started as an ikebana designer.
Below are two more images from the shop, and also the intriguing sidewalk garden Ishihara-san designed for the hair salon across the street. I hope to meet Ishihara-san and learn more about Yoshida-san’s work, too.
Thanks to the 30 people who participated in the Tokyo DIY Gardening workshop last night at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. We created an enormous collage map and shared interesting stories and images of Tokyo’s wonderful green spaces, existing and imagined. A big thanks to Chris Berthelsen for conceiving, preparing and motivating this participatory project. We’ll digitize the 4 meter by 2 meter map and post about it soon.
This post is about park signage, with images of hand-drawn and printed signs outside the 3331 Arts Chiyoda park. Alongside a lawn and some shade trees, the front park includes a rose garden with several varieties. I found it interesting that the map of the rose types was so ad hoc and temporary: written on paper and affixed with metal clips.
This very informal sign contrasts with a more typical sign found in Tokyo parks. Using child-like manga, the sign details the many forbidden activities.
Perhaps the most interesting warning is 「他人の迷惑になる行為はやめましょう」。Let’s not do anything that will disturb other people, below an image of baseball players. I am struck by how the image is so specific and the warning is so open to any interpretation. It invites the reader to imagine just how many possible actions could bother other people.
A reminder that tomorrow night is the Tokyo DIY Gardening Workshop at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, a great new arts space in a converted junior high school. I took these photos last week when I went there for a planning meeting with my workshop co-organizer Chris Berthelsen of Fixes. It’s great that in addition to all the art exhibit, gallery and office spaces inside, the front of the 3331 Arts Chiyoda is a very welcoming park with a lawn and shade trees (plus a very popular smoking area next to a public bathroom).
For non-Japanese and non-parents, it’s a great experience to see the inside and even the roof of what seems like a typical city school: old wood shoe lockers, simple yet sturdy furniture, and rooms that seem very Bauhaus in their streamlined functionality. The roof is also interesting because for city schools that is probably where most if not all recreation takes place. For some reason the art space created this small lawn area, and of course I followed Chris’ lead in taking off my sandals and walking bare-foot on the grass.
3331 Arts Chiyoda has also set up dozens of rental plots for people who want to grow vegetables. If anyone is nearby, there seem to be plenty of vacant spaces, and it would be a cool place to grow vegetables and to get to know the arts groups and activities in the building.
The chain link fence on the sides and top, the institutional clock, even the caged loudspeakers evoke an ordinary childhood scene that is unfamiliar to me. It’s cool to experience these spaces, and imagine that many of the people I know in Tokyo attended schools like this.
The watermelon vine has been leafing out like crazy all summer, but only this morning did I notice five tiny watermelons growing on the balcony’s green curtain. This one is the size of a golf ball with fuzzy white hairs growing from the fruit and stem. I am surprised at the success of this vertical, balcony watermelon.
Walking at night in Chiyoda after a meeting at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Chris and I found an amazingly dense and mature sidewalk garden that seems to be tended by a sushi restaurant. The planting is amazingly thick, creating a green wall between the sidewalk and the large boulevard in front of the restaurant. I like how the owners felt they could own this space and sacrifice some pedestrian space to make the small area around them so much nicer.
There’s a variety of trees and bushes and small plants in recycled pots and layered on cinder blocks (called “breeze blocks” by the New Zealanders) and other found stuff including beer crates, wood, bricks, and blocks. There’s even two plastic pots hanging from a ginko street tree that are currently empty. Makes me want to contribute something!
I love how this small building in a Shinjuku commercial district is buried in vines. On a hot summer day, it makes you feel cooler just looking at all those green leaves.