Month: September 2011

Fragrant Angel’s Trumpet flowers remind me of San Francisco

エンジェル・トランペットはサンフランシスコを思い出させます。特に夜、香りがいいです。この植物はもともと南アメリカのアンデズという山から来ました。

Angel’s Trumpet, or brugmansia, reminds me of San Francisco. Its big flowers are particularly fragrant at night. Originally from the Andes mountains of South America, in Tokyo this wonderful bush dies back in the winter and re-sprouts every April.

Thousand year old tree damaged in last week’s typhoon

先週の台風のせいで、この千年ケヤキが破損していました。この木は近所で一番古い木だから、とても悲しくなりました。木が生き残ることを願っています。

The oldest tree in my neighborhood, which a sign claims is a thousand year old zelkova, was damaged in last week’s typhoon. I often pass by it, and recently posted about the beautiful wood support recently installed. Unfortunately, the part that fell was the larger main branch that was also previously damaged and repaired. I hope the tree can pull through this major damage.

Valued by US preppies, hosta seems ignored in Tokyo

ホスタはアジアの植物だけど、アメリカではもっと人気。アメリカ人にとって、ホスタは上品な輸入品の高価な気分があります。東京の中では、あまりそう見えないですが。育てやすいし、素敵だと思います。

Although hosta is an Asian plant, it’s more popular in America. For Americans, hostal is a very elegant import and expensive feeling. I associate it with upper class neighborhoods in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. You hardly see it in Tokyo. It’s easy to grow and very attractive I think.

Blue salvia, wood house, and bicycle

青色のサルビアと自転車と木造の家がかっこいい景色を作っています。庭というよりも、カジュアルで、気取らない、たくましい都市自然です。

Casual, unplanned, resilient. The city has a life of its own: season, history, transportation, housing, color, and mood.

Edo morning glory has white border and stripes

江戸朝顔のほうが小さくて、色がたくさんあります。沖縄朝顔とは違って、江戸朝顔は白い縁どりと白い縞があります。歴史と花の大きさを考えると、東京にぴたっりです。

I am a big fan of Okinawa morning glory and Edo morning glory. The Edo ones typically have a white border and stripes, and come in many colors. They’re very showy, a good size for domestic spaces, and they evoke Tokyo history. The Okinawa morning glory is a deep blue perennial, and quickly spreads and covers much more space. Both share a distinctive leaf shape.

Murasaki shikibu is a hardy bush that symbolizes fall

紫式部の果実がきれいです。まだ緑色だけど、もうすぐ紫色になります。果実は秋のしるしです。

There is something very pleasing about the small berries on Murasaki shikibu, named after the author and heroine of the famous 11 century novel The Tale of the Genji. Here they are still green, but soon they’ll turn purple.

Woody and stylized nature at Shinjuku Gyoen

どんな理由があっても、新宿御苑を通り抜けるのが大好きです。植物と景色が多いです。モミジが池に映っていて、人のいない自然みたい。竹で作られた柵があるから、人が作った場所だと分かりますが。近くに日本庭園があります。園芸家のおかげで、様式化されています。両方の景色が好きだから、一緒に見るのはすばらしです。

With any excuse, I like to cut across Shinjuku Gyoen. There are so many different plants and landscapes to see there. I like the contrast of these photos. Above late summer maple trees are lush green, and reflected in a pond. Only the wooden edge suggests that it is a garden and not a natural wonder. Below is the Japanese garden, with a path through the pond and gardeners hard at work styling nature into a very specific shape. I love seeing both woody and stylized versions so close to each other.

Late summer balcony garden has some wildness

最近は季節が変わってきたと感じます。空気は乾燥してきたし、空はもっと青色ですし、ふわふわな雲が劇的に動きます。晩夏、うちの狭いベランダ庭では、野生の気分が出てきました。小さいな保育園の席やブルーベリーや陶芸の植木鉢があります。

The season is turning. The air is suddenly much drier, the sky bluer, and the clouds puffy and dramatic. These late summer photos show the wildness I was able to achieve in my narrow balcony garden this year.

Above is the view from the kitchen door. There’s a tiny nursery school chair, an already fading sunflower, a last burst of blueberries, and murasaki shikibu, a fall flower that I just bought.

Below you can see the shelf full of my amateur ceramic flowerpots, which can also be seen from the living room. One pot has basil. I like how the garden path seems longer and more over-grown than it is.

Making wall vases at Shiho ceramic studio

史火陶芸教室の生徒展示会のために、壁の花瓶と植木鉢を作っています。この写真は最初の形です。粘土と釉薬は同じだけど、後ろと前を反対にして、斜めと垂直の形を作りました。

In preparation for the November Shiho students’ ceramic show, I am expanding from flowerpots to wall vases. This is what they looked like after I connected the slabs together. Later comes trimming and carving, baking, glazing, and second baking. I am experimenting with reversing front and back, and how to angle the box that holds the water and flowers.

Even a small garden can have many layers

みんなは小さいなベランダに100種類 以上の植物があると聞いて、驚いています。このクローズアップの中に、盆栽が三個、多肉植物が二個、それからミントもあります。スペースが小さいけれど、可能性は大きいです。

People are surprised when I tell them that I have at least one hundred plants on my small Tokyo balcony. It sounds like a lot, but actually it’s easy to accumulate. Even a small garden can have many layers. I was aiming my camera at the fairly large bonsai in the center, made by my friend Matthew. It has two types of grasses, two types of mosses, and a fern. Some neighboring mint is stretching above that singularly planned assemblage. And at the bottom left are two small succulents in a flowerpot with drawings from my mother-in/out-law. There’s also a trunk and leaf from two neighboring bonsais. That’s at least ten plants in this one close-up.

Triple platanus tree canopy at Shinjuku gyoen

新宿御苑で三本のプラタヌスという木が一つの天蓋をつくっています。たくさんの年月を経て、それぞれ木はアンバランスになりましたが、一緒に大きいな丸い形を作っています。古い木には、時間と協調の効果が見えます。

These three Platanus trees form one giant canopy. I like how each one is unbalanced, but together over the decades they have created a single round form. With older trees, you can see the effects of time and cooperation.

Gave my bonsai a minor haircut

品品のクラスで、ぼくが作ったカエデの盆栽を剪定しました。元気そうです。そして、苔の花が咲いています。秋の準備ができています。

I gave a minor trim to the kaede maple bonsai I made at Sinajina. It looks healthy. And the moss is even blooming. It’s now ready for fall.

Tokyo metabolizing creates vision for Tokyo as new urban form

「東京は人間のための都市(まち)に向けて変容していけるのでしょうか。」週末に、『家の外の都市の中の家』という展示会を見ました。新しい社会条件に、東京の建築家が創造的なアプローチをします。人間が都市で一番な要素であれば、その都市はどんな風に見えるでしょうか。他人を認識することが良いことならば、住宅はどのように変わるでしょうか。建物と建物の隙間が、建築物と同じくらい大事ならば、都市生活はどう感じるだろうか。時間があれば、10月2日まで展示会をご覧ください。

“Tokyo seems to be changing into a city that is meant for people,” concludes the introduction to the Tokyo Metabolizing exhibit at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. The exhibit combines models and ideas from three architecture firms, Atelier Bow-Wow, Nishizawa Ryue, and Kitayama Koh, and formed part of the 2010 Venice Biennale.

Tokyo Metabolizing provides context for the rapid development of the world’s largest mega-city, and suggests new ways of living well in the city. I like how the architects respond with new dwelling types, including a blending of home and office, residences that share common spaces, and apartments where connectedness with others is valued more than privacy.

The architects are responding to new  realities of who we live with and how we want to live. In Tokyo the average household is less than 2 people, and these smaller households seek new connections with neighbors, colleagues, and friends. I think the most radical suggestion is that an awareness of other people living around you might be considered a positive feature rather than something to be concealed or suppressed.

The metabolizing title harks back to a radical modernism from 1960s Tokyo, and foregrounds the city as a living organism: with a life, history, and progression. Carolyn Steel, in her book Hungry City, uses the concept of the city as an organism  to focus attention on urban food delivery, prep and consumption. The urban built environment is also reflection of social life– from tax policy to demographics– and human aspirations.

I liked that Atelier Bow-Wow focuses on the untapped value of Tokyo’s void spaces: in-between, often wasted space between structures, which have potential for re-use and for gardens, community, and nature in the city.

The exhibit has great scale models, and is at Opera City until October 2. Also worth seeing is a special exhibit of recent works by young artist Ishii Toru (石井). Ishii creates psychedelic contemporary fantasies– full of convenience stores and fast food logos– using a traditional yuzen method of dyeing fabric.