Month: January 2012

Lone palm looks radiant in twilight


Lone palm looks radiant in twilight. I had to stop my bike to take this photo. Gaien-Nishi Dori between Aoyama and Jingu-mae.

Update: Identified by @jasondewees as Washingtonia, or Mexican fan palm. This tall skinny palm also grows well in San Francisco (and possibly LA, too).

Small birdhouse adds charm to Marui department store’s roof garden

This small birdhouse adds charm to the Marui department store roof garden. I wonder if any birds have found their way inside. Shinjuku san-chome.

Four mature trees growing in 25 centimeters of earth outside Nishi Azabu home


I love how this Nishi Azabu corner house has maybe 25 centimeters of space and a three-story tall garden of mature trees and bushes. The deciduous trees provide summer shade, and in winter the bare branches have a different appeal.

Olives on Roppongi Hills trees. I wonder how they taste!


I was excited to see these olives on the trees outside Roppongi Hills Tower. I don’t think anyone’s going to eat them since they are shriveling up now. How do you think they taste?

Seoul’s transformation into livable city. Makes Tokyo look stunted.


In the past five years, Seoul has gone from one of East Asia’s ugliest mega-cities to one of its most livable and attractive. The transformation has been rapid. While I think Tokyo is often stunted by its autocratic government and urban planning, Seoul shows that East Asian cities can be dynamic and forward-looking.

On a visit last summer, I toured new city parks (the Cheonggyecheon river and Seonyudo island), visited art galleries, experienced the mix of old and cutting edge architecture, and met meta-designers, Seoul’s city brand manager, and a national environmental researcher.

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Wild palm is allowed to grow in manicured landscape


Japanese garden maintenance is precise and skilled, even in public facilities. Because of this, I was all the more surprised and delighted to see a self-sown shuro palm disrupting this heavily manicured and idealized landscape behind the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The azaleas on the slope are pruned to suggest waves, and the trees pruned as if they were posh poodles.

Maybe because it’s a palm tree, this intruder is allowed to thrive.

White daisies brighten up balcony garden in winter


I am drawn to white flowers for winter gardening. They evoke snow, and also add brightness to the cold days.

Pink, purple & red in balcony garden. Flowers & foliage.


From last year, I like these images of the balcony garden in late fall, still crowded and with leaves turning color, the previous year’s purple salvia re-bloom, and new pink gerber daisies as highlights.

Deep red vine in winter adds charm to concrete residence in Harajuku


This Harajuku residential buidling is bordered by tall bamboo and covered in a thick vine. I posted a photo of this building last summer shaded in dense green foliage. Now it’s turned red in early winter, and the contrast is very pleasing.

Please contribute to Tokyo Local Fruit study



Do you eat, grow, or share local fruit in Tokyo? We are collecting stories about Tokyo local, or non-commercial, fruit. Please share yours.


Image: Jess Mantell. Project partners: Jess Mantell and Chris Berthelsen.

Ginkos connect an old street with decades of layers


Ome Kaido is a large boulevard in my neighborhood that dates to Edo times when this area was largely fields. I like how the ginko trees provide a unifying element to a heterogenous streetscape of  abandoned post-war buildings mixed with newer commercial, residential and even light industrial buildings from every decade since.

Directly across the street from this corner is a ten story office building. I noticed the roof-top sports facility years before I recognized the logo at the entrance that marks it as the headquarters of one of Japan’s leading adult content companies.

Year round flowers in Tokyo


I like how Tokyo has four seasons, but even in winter there are flowers. This well trimmed camellia is part of a wonderful residential garden that I pass on my way to the JR station. The space is small, but the gardener has dozens of species that are attractive in all season.