Month: July 2011

Studying firefly habitat in Gunma with a Tokyo middle school

東京農業大学の鈴木先生は東京の中学校でホタルの生息地を作る予定です。毎夏、先生と中学生は群馬県に行って、ホタルを観察して勉強します。今回、私も招待されました。

ホタルにはきれいな水と暗闇が必要です。鈴木先生によると、都市の生息地には社会的なデザインも要ります。学校のとなりのお寺や退職をした方たちのセンターも参加できます。

川場村に来て、中学生たちは田んぼの草むしりをして、小さい川でカニとカエルを観察しました。都市の子供なのに、中学生たちは本当に勇気があります。

夜に、ゲンジボタルとヘイケボタルを見ました。林と田んぼのそばにはホタルがいっぱいいます。

なかのビレジ」というホテルに泊まりました。内側は和風モダンで、外側は山の一部 みたいです。湯名な坂倉建築研究所はホテルを作りました。

川場村では、たくさんリンゴが育っています。最近、ブルーベリーも育っています。

Tokyo University of Agriculture Professor Suzuki is planning a firefly habitat at a junior high school. Each year, teachers and students from the Tokyo school visit Gunma to study fireflies. This year I was also invited.

Fireflies need clean water and darkness. According to Professor Suzuki, creating habitat in the city also requires a “social design.” The temple, cemetary, and senior center near the school are also invited to participate.

When we arrived at Kawaba-mura, the school girls weeded a rice field and played with frogs and crabs in the creek. Even though they are city kids, the students are very brave.

At night, we saw Genji fireflies and Heiki fireflies. There are a lot of fireflies on the edge between the forest and the rice field.

We stayed at a hotel called “Nakano Village” which on the inside is Japanese modern style, and on the outside the building looks like part of the hillside. It was designed by the famous Sakakura Associates.

Kawaba mura has many apple orchards, and recently they are also growing blueberries.

The trip made me think of the following:

  • How can gardens be created in multiple connected sites?
  • How can all city and country kids learn about each other’s environments and lives?
  • How can cities begin to value darkness as essential to their vitality?
  • How can kids and adults create habitat and support wildlife where they study, work, play, and live?

Late afternoon outside Kichijoji shrine

この吉祥寺の神社の木陰と静けさはとても良い雰囲気です。武蔵野八幡宮という神社は大きくて、木がたくさんあります。神社の前は五日市街道という古い道路です。この道路は新宿と西の街をつなげます。百年前、武蔵野や中野は農園だけでした。

I love this large shrine and wooded grounds in Kichijoji. Towards the end of a summer afternoon, the shadows and quiet are very inviting. The shrine is called Musashino Hachimangu (武蔵野八幡宮), and it’s on an old street that connects Shinjuku with the (now) inner western suburbs called Itsukaichi Kaido (五日市街道). A hundred years ago, Musashino and Nakano were farms, and you can see the kanji for “field” in both of these town names.

Grapes growing on a busy sidewalk

歩道と道路の間で、ぶどうが育っています。持ち主 はガードレールを高くして、使っています。

These grapes are growing in the narrow space between the sidewalk and a wide road in Oimachi. I like how this local gardener has adapted the city’s railing, and added additional height and support.

A walk through Harajuku backstreets on a hot summer day

原宿の路地を歩くと、いろいろな庭を見ることができます。おしゃれな建物のグリーンカーテンや戦前からある伝統的な日本庭園もあります。私が好きな庭はシンプルで、たくましくて、さりげないです。大きな青山団地でトマトとゴーヤを見つけました。

With @luismendo visiting from Amsterdam, my Tokyo DIY Gardening pal Chris and I took him on a tour of Harajuku backstreets looking at gardens, eating tonkatsu, and stopping for some excellent cold coffee.

Harajuku is fun because the residential area has houses and gardens from all or almost all the past eight decades. The Harajuku gardens that appeal to me are similar to ones elsewhere in Tokyo for their simplicity and easy adaptation to urban life. Some results are clearly unintentional.

My photos include a three story garden of ivy and bamboo that covers one house and provides a buffer with its neighbor, a sleek concrete building’s balcony green curtains that are just starting to fill out on two floors, a blue flowering vine that somehow became a giant bush, a tiny entrance garden outside a pre-war house that has been converted into the very elegant Omotesando Coffee.

We also explored the enormous Danchi that between 246 road and Harajuku. This sprawling bauhaus-like public housing project has a wonderfully chaotic and varied set of gardens created by generations of residents. In July, we spotted lots of tomatoes, vertical bitter melon, and these purple gloves on top of an ad hoc garden support.

Giant wood support for landmark tree

最近、古いケヤキを支える木造の補助 ができました。下を歩くと、近所の方も、この補助と木を見ているのに気がつきました。2つの役割 があります。木を守るだけでなく、近所の方がこの木は特別だと気がつきます。多分、この木はこの近所で一番古い木です。木造の補助は神社の鳥居みたいです。

Recently, I’ve noticed this enormous new wood support for the giant zelkova tree in front of my local elementary school.  I’ve noticed other neighbors stopping to admire the giant support and the tree.

I like how the elegant support structure protects the tree and also draws attention to its significance. This traditional style Japanese garden technique also evokes the gates outside Shinto shrines.

I’ve blogged about this landmark tree before in April and also last year. One sign says that it’s 1,000 years old. While I doubt that, it’s still a remarkable tree, and probably the oldest living being in the neighborhood.

Making more flowerpots at Shiho

史火陶芸教室で新しい植木鉢のシリーズを作り始めました。他の生徒さんが作った碗の質感と釉薬に感激して、自分で簡単なものを作りたかった。

右の植木鉢の縦線は底にある排水の溝とつなげます。対象の線は、グリップにもなります。左の植木鉢は構造的な機能だけを考えて、シンプルに作りました。生徒さんの一人が、この形はキャンドルスタンドに良いと言いました。

一回、焼いたあとで、釉薬をかけます。釉薬をかけないところもあって、そこは生地が見えて、感触を楽しめます。

素人なのに、先生のおかげで、作品がもっとすてきになりました。先生はいつも生徒のアイデアを後押しして、手伝ってくれて、良い作品ができあがります。とても良い先生です。

I am making a new flower pot series at Shiho ceramic studio. I was inspired by the texture and glazing of another student’s bowls, and wanted to create something simple.

The vertical lines on the right-side pot connect with the drainage channels on the bottom and also provide contrast and something to grip. The left-side pot was an experiment in removing material without compromising structural integrity. A fellow student suggested this would make a good candle holder.

After they’re baked the first time, I’ll apply the glaze. Usually I leave some parts unglazed so that you can see and feel the ceramic directly.

It’s a credit to the Shiho teachers that my amateur efforts turn out look more intentional and better designed than I am capable of. I like that they encourage me to do what I want, and yet somehow always ensure that my work turns out OK. That’s evidence of great teaching!

Twilight over Nishi Shinjuku with almost full moon

暑さと高い湿度のために、東京の夏の日中はちょっとたいへんです。
けれども、夏の夜は歩くのが楽しいです。夕暮れは特にきれいです。この写真は、数日前、月がもうすぐ満月の時でした。西新宿の上に出ていました。

Summer days in Tokyo are difficult with the heat and humidity, but evenings are very pleasant for walking and getting around. Twilight is especially beautiful now.

7-Eleven quickly replaces light bulbs at local store

セブン・イレブンがすばやく電球を変えています。節電のために、LEDは大切です。百万人以上が新しい照明を見ることができるでしょう。この近所の店では、施工中なのに、店舗は営業しています。LEDのほうがきれいだと思いますか?

It’s very impressive how quickly 7-Eleven can install new lighting. LEDs are a huge shift in lighting, and this very prominent example will influence millions of consumers.

Many companies have agreed to large energy reductions, up to 20 and 25 percent. I noticed this van outside my local 7-Eleven yesterday. They changed the store’s lighting to LEDs without closing the business. Another store I passed yesterday in western Tokyo was also updated. I wonder how soon all the 7-Elevens will be using these very low energy lights.

I think the new strips of small lights produce a more pleasant light than the old fluorescent tubes. What do you think?

Edoble brings people together to eat free food growing in Tokyo

東京の「エドブル」は人を集めて、無料で料理を作ったり、食べたりします。
ハッサクという果物が食べられることを知っていますか? 区役所の公務員と一緒にハッサクを廃校になった中学校で収穫しました。先月、20人が集まって、ハッサクを切って、皮や種や膜を取って、マーマレードを作りました。もっとエドブルの料理パーティーに参加したい。

Through this blog, I was contacted by Edoble, whose tag line is “free food everywhere, in Tokyo.” Last month Edoble organized a hassaku marmelade party at a small shoutengai in Nakano, not far from where I live.

Edoble’s founder Jess Mantell is a Canadian designer, doctoral student, city explorer, and community organizer. As you can see from the poster above, she’s a great illustrator, too. At Keio University, she previously led a team that created an iPhone app that tracks movement across Tokyo with city sounds.

Edoble’s hassaku marmalade making event was great fun. Hassaku is a citrus tree that I often see growing in older gardens in Tokyo. The tree is very robust, and the fruits bright orange and large starting in winter. Seeing them makes me feel like there’s a bit of Florida or Southern California in Tokyo. But everyone had told me that the fruit is inedible. Jess’ idea was to bring people together to harvest and prepare hassaku.

It seems that if you pick the fruit at different times, the taste changes. Jess spotted mature hassaku trees in an abandoned city middle school near her house in south Nakano. She asked permission from the ward office to harvest the fruit in the spring, and several city workers unlocked the gate and joined her in collecting and sharing the fruit. That alone is pretty cool.

In June, Edoble hosted a marmalade party as a public event at a small space that is shared by the shoutengai association. On June 11, about twenty people very rapidly peeled the fruit, eliminated the membrane, put the seeds and membrane into a cheese cloth, and then boiled everything in four large pots. It was fun to see the amazing knife skills, particularly the older women and one young nursery school chef. We even got some help from some neighborhood kids.

The workshop was super-inspiring. It is great to realize how much food is growing in Tokyo, and that we can join with our neighbors in collecting and preparing super local food. Edoble’s accomplishment was in bringing together residents and local government, children and seniors, mostly Japanese and a few foreigners, mostly women and a few men.

Edoble reminds me that cities can grow a lot more of their own food, and that residents enjoy opportunities to work together and share food. Urban foraging is low cost and high return.

Okinawa morning glory on balcony green curtain

毎朝たくさん沖縄アサガオが咲いていて、グリーン・カーテンはいっぱいになってきました。江戸アサガオとちがって、沖縄アサガオは多年生植物です。この夏は三年目です。正午
までに、花は全部しぼんでいます。

節電のために、今年まだエアコンを使っていません。エアコンを使わないと、楽しめる場所がもっとできます。

Every morning, lots of Okinawa morning glories are blooming on our balcony, and the green curtain is filling out. Unlike Edo morning glory plants, Okinawa morning glories are perennial. This year is the third summer we’ve had this deep blue flower. By noon, the flowers are already wilting.

Because of energy conservation, we haven’t used the air conditioning yet this year. Also, by not using the air conditioning, there’s more space for me to enjoy the balcony garden.

Hanazono shrine offers shade and escape

蒸し暑い東京の夏は、日陰と木がとてもいいです。花園神社の入り口は新宿の混んでいる靖国通りの前です。神社はだれでも歓迎します。入ると、交通やネオンからちょっとのがれて、肉体的にも精神的にも一休みできます。

In Tokyo’s hot and humid summer, shade and trees are always welcome. I love how the entrance to Hanazono shrine faces busy Yasukuni Dori in Shinjuku, offering a physical and spiritual respite from traffic, commerce, neon, and host clubs.

Ghibli museum architecture blends with park

ジブリ美術館は建築と公園をうまく調和させています。自然のマジックを感じることができます。

Recently I visited the Ghibli museum for the first time. The exhibits are fun, and the whole experience is very Miyazaki: a blend of Western influences in a very Japanese fantasy world. I particularly liked the recreations of Miyazaki’s work space, overflowing with books and drawings. I was a bit surprised at the overflowing ashtrays: undoubtedly realistic but a little odd for a children’s space.

I love how the building itself blends in with the surrounding park, with green walls and roofs, articulated spaces, and mature trees everywhere. It’s an appropriately magical environment that dissolves the lines between people and nature, inside and out.

Traffic cone planter

賢いアイデアです。トラフィックコーンの上で、簡単な金属の仕掛けで、植木鉢を四個支えています。横に並んでいるので、スペースの効率が良いです。 高さの違いもおもしろいです。

What a clever idea! This simple metal structure places four flowerpots on a traffic cone. It’s very space efficient because all four are in a single line, with a slight variation in height.

University of Tokyo moves old ginko tree for construction

東大法学大学院の新しい図書館ができるまで、成熟したイチョウの木を移動しています。 東大は木の価値に気がついていて、うれしいです。本郷のキャンパスの背の高い木や三四郎池はとてもすてきです。

It’s wonderful to see how the University of Tokyo is carefully removing two mature ginko trees as it breaks ground for a new law school library. The Hongo campus is gorgeous, both for its brick buildings that are vaguely ivy league and art deco, but also for its stunning trees and Sanshiro pond.

The frantic pace of construction and reconstruction has left Tokyo with an inadequate tree canopy. It’s great that these two trees will survive the new building, and that the University of Tokyo demonstrates that it values its natural environment.

Summer is loquat season in Tokyo

東京のどこにも、びわの木があります。実の色が大好きです。だれでも食べられます。だけど、お隣が道でなっているびわを食べているところを見たことがありません。

Everywhere I walk in Tokyo, I see loquat trees (called biwa in Japanese 枇杷) on the sidewalks: planted between the sidewalk and roadway, next to a Royal Host, coming out of a shrine. Loquat seems well adapted to Tokyo, and it’s great to see such huge trees full of orange fruit and accessible from the street. I have to keep my eye out to see if the neighbors eat them.