Pink and yellow mini-daisies on Tokyo balcony. Handmade ceramic pot, made at Shiho studio.
I like how this very common and hardy camellia brings some life to a concrete patio in a Nakano back street. I wonder who placed it there and keeps it well pruned.
I can easily imagine a jungle growing between these older commercial buildings, a living food alley with scent and maybe a small creek bed. As it is now, this space between buildings functions as a giant chute for capturing rainwater, which then travels many kilometers and must be processed, alongside sewage, before being released into Tokyo Bay.
At least someone working or living there is decorating and enjoying the space.
Walking in Omotesando, you can see the contrast between houses built before and after the 1980s. Unfortunately, most of the new houses occupy the entire lot, with no room for the sizable gardens in their pre-Bubble predecessors.
I was admiring this fragrant tree with poofy balls of yellow and white flowers on bare branches. It’s in a shallow residential garden near Omotesando Koffee. Luckily, the owner came by as I was photographing, and explained that it’s called mitsumata, because of its three branch structure.
Later, I learned it’s called paperbush in English, and it’s known for producing high quality paper, once used for Japanese bank notes. The Kew Botanic Garden website says that it originates in China and has been cultivated in Japan and Korea since the 16th century. It’s also used in Chinese medicine.
In the photo below, you can see how the newer residential styles, with sleek concrete facades, close the house from the street, and very often include no plants at all. A sad contrast for garden lovers.
On my third trip to Shibaura, I discovered that there is one canal that provides wonderful, up-close access to water. It’s the first canal when entering from the JR Yamanote station. There’s even paths below the bridges and just above the water. On a drizzly afternoon, it was magical to be below the roadway.
Most of Tokyo’s rivers are buried, and the few remaining ones, including much of the Kanda and Zenpukuji rivers, are channeled 10 meters below street level to manage flooding. Sometimes I hear ducks echoing in these canyons, but the distance between people and water is a missed opportunity.
At the Shibaura canal, I found a tiny canal opening that seems to do pre-date the more recent developments. I like the old stones at the entrance. All that’s missing from this canal is space to get your feet wet, or even go in for a swim.
On the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, I spent the afternoon at a memorial in Hibiya Park, and then joined tens of thousands forming a human chain around Japan’s national assembly, the Diet. I snapped a lot of photos, along with @sub_fauna, who took some great photos.
It was great to see so many people coming together to ask for fundamental change to energy and politics. Striking were the number of seniors, the odd costumes including several Pokemon, the mix of the mournful and colorful. A few Japanese friends asked me what a “human chain” was, as if it were a complicated imported notion. It was very touching to see people holding hands around the center of government.
I was also impressed with how organized the entire demonstration and policing were. The long cross-walk in front of the Diet was occupied only while the light was red. The police remained very calm, and their main tools were rolls of neon police tape, megaphones, and fabric traffic barriers with rings for lines of police to easily hold.
Recently I picked up strawberries from the home center, full of pretty white flowers. They were less than $2 each. I think it’s very interesting that they’re called “Tokyo strawberries.” In this urban country, it makes sense to develop and target plants, even vegetables, to city growers.
The label also boasts, “Pure Berry 2” with a registered trademark. But the biggest promise is strawberries in all four seasons. I am looking forward to my first balcony strawberry!
This beautiful bonsai was decorating the very chic Omotesando Koffee shop. The cafe is a modern cube inside a Showa house with a cozy front garden. The very cheerful barista explained that the owner made this bonsai himself. I like how the bonsai looks next to the cappuccino and the aged wood of the house and cupboard. The moss is especially lush and lovely.
Winter provides a glimpse into this small Showa-era garden. Close to the house is a plum tree in bloom. Bordering the new development are evergreen plants including bamboo and the shuro palm.
Two tone flowers and variegated leaves make these tulips very extravagant. I also like how the seller reinforces the idea that they were flown or shipped from the Netherlands. I was amazed to find these “Top Lips” tulips at the local home center.
Some garden purists insist on growing from seed or bulb. I don’t mind mixing up seeds, starters, and buds. With the small space of a 4 square meter balcony, it’s nice to let the nurseries do some of the preparation so we can enjoy more variety and color.
This lovely lilac flower with an odd name, Scabiosa blue balloon, is one I don’t remember seeing before. It’s native to southeast England, and developed into a garden cultivar. I like to mix up nostalgic plants like daffodils with ones I’m not familiar with.
It was nice to re-pot my favorite hand-made ceramics with fresh flowers. I love daffodils for being so cheerful, with a high contrast between fresh green leaves and yellow buds.
This winter seems to never end. So I biked over to the local home center recently, and loaded up on bright flowers including daffodils, tulips, stock, and this amazing lupinus. I am familiar with it as a very handsome deep blue flowering perennial, native to North America, that becomes a bush. I’d never seen it in candy colors and bred for maximum floral display. It’s at once familiar, odd, and just the right antidote for more cold days.
Who’s going to Sunday’s 3.11 Tokyo Big March against nukes? It starts at 2 pm in Hibiya Park, with a silent prayer at 2.46 pm, and a march starting at 3 pm through Ginza and Yurakucho. By 5 pm, there will be a human chain around the Diet Building. I am looking to find hope on a grim anniversary. Info in English and Japanese.