Month: August 2013

I am amazed that no stranger has yet eaten these sidewalk cherry tomatoes Chinese restaurant on busy sidewalk

cherry_tomatos_chineseresto_nakano_southexit
誰かがこの歩道のチェリートマトを食べていないのがすばらしいと思います。
Outside a Chinese restaurant on busy sidewalk.

Wide canal packed with with boats, bridges, elevated highways, and a trace of pre-industrial Edo

shibaura_ichome_canal_showa_cluster

この運河の景色は素敵ですね。戦後の建築の歴史が見えます。幅が広い運河は産業革命前の江戸時代を呼び起こします。自然な感じがします。都市は有機体だと思い出させてくれます。大きい都市はいつも少しずつが変わっていきます。芝浦一丁目で。

I love this canal view, the layers of visible history in buildings, and the wide water that evokes pre-industrial Edo life. Even the regrettable additions, like the elevated freeways, show how Tokyo constantly evolves not through great design but by continual addition to what was already there.

There is so much transportation infrastructure on this wide canal in Shibaura Ichome. I also love how the small post-war house at the corner has been built up over the years with additions, and then surrounded by a taller modernist office and more recent, larger buildings that are more about function than form. There’s something very calming about seeing this large expanse of water, and a view of how Tokyo became layered with new structures over time.

A hazy day at the beach in Enoshima

enoshima_beach

夏のビーチパーティーに参加するために、江ノ島に行きました。

I also attended a large beach party In East Enoshima, in Kanagawa. It’s very picturesque, but the water was not so clean.

View towards Koenji from hallway makes me wonder where are the trees?

nakano_cityscape_hallway
高円寺の方角の景色はきれいだけど、木が見えませんね。

The opposite side of the apartment from our balcony is a hallway with an enormous view of inner west Tokyo, including the Chuo and Sobu line trains. There’s a serious shortage of trees and open space.

Toddler bike fleet lined up outside our apartment building

winnie_pooh_bikes_toddlers_nakano_centralmansion

マンションの小さな子供たちが共有できる押し車はカラフルです。ここに、一番古いのはどれくらいここにあるのでしょうか。

It’s adorable that between the bike parking and the car parking, there’s a fleet of toddler bikes. It looks like they are shared among all the kids in our apartment building. I wonder how long they’ve been stationed there.

Is it safe to go into the ocean? Probably not, but . . .

onjuku_beach_hills

日本の海は危険でしょうか。暑い日に、海はまだ楽しいです。千葉の御宿で。

In the heat of August, who can resist a visit to the ocean? Despite the on-going revelations about nuclear leaks, the ocean is irresistible. This is Onjuku in lower Chiba. Below is the river that passes near the station. The tall skinny palms remind me of California.

onjuku_canal

Tanuki night-time portrait, with Tokyo Olympic cloth featuring attractive African American athletes

chrisb_tanuki_us_athletes_tokyo_olympics

タヌキさんが大好きな青山団地で、夏の夜にピクニックをしました。アメリカの黒人選手が写っている1964年の東京オリンピックの布は、タヌキの袋でしたが、今はカメラのふろしきとして使っています。タヌキさんの奥さんが作ったオリジナルお面は今外国人の高校生が持っています。

My super-extroverted tanuki co-conspirator, Chris Berthelsen, has relocated to New Zealand. It was touching that at our last public outing his special feature consisted of a 1964 Tokyo Olympic cloth featuring African-American athletes. Although not clear from this poor photo, the setting is Aoyama Danchi, one of tanuki’s favorite urban wild spaces.

Thanks, Chris, for all the creativity and boundary hopping. I was also super happy to hear that the original tanuki mask, made by Chris’ wife, is now in the possession of a Dutch teen in Tokyo.

Lovely vine covers street-side window with red and yellow lanterns

lantern_flower_koenji_window

花がいっぱい咲いている蔓植物が路地の前の窓にちょっとしたプライバシーを提供しています。濃い青色の陶器タイルもきれいですね。

I love how this easy to grow vine sends its growth down. The owner has trained it over the street-side window so that it provides additional privacy. There’s also two types of bamboo shades, and three spider plants. I also like how the blue ceramic tile adds a decorative element to what is a very functional architecture typical of post-war Japan.

Double Face condo billboard offers city and nature, in image only

face_face_koenji_housing_billboard

家の近くに、「ダブルフィイス」というビルが建てられています。看板のまんなかに、モデルさんがいて、背景の半分は建物で、もう半分には森があります。実際には、木は1つも植えないみたいです。ところで “double-faced” は英語で「偽善」という意味もあります。

I assume Double Face has no specific meaning in Japanese. It’s hard to imagine the phrase being used in marketing when confidence and reputation are at stake.

Near my house is another new construction, Double Face in katakana or just Face Face in English. The concept is city and nature. But from what I see the building itself will contribute almost zero natural benefits to the sidewalk or community. Not even a single tree outside the mid-rise building. Again, I can sort of understand the concept, but the execution as a billboard and as a property leave much to be desired.

At this point in construction, what they’re offering the public is a vending machine, one of many drink machines along this boulevard.

What makes a home desirable? Who wants to Grow Best Life Stage?

grobel_sendagayaJR_housing_billboard

最近、不動産関係のコンサルティングをさせていただいているので、都市開発の魅力について考えています。東京の高級住宅はよくカタカナ英語を使います。けれども、日本のお客さまへのものなので、和製英語が多いですね。

Recently I am consulting for one of Japan’s largest real estate companies seeking to attract residents to a waterfront area that many might not have considered before. What makes an apartment or a neighborhood desirable? What architectural and landscape choices are most important? What are the trends today and in the future that drive consumer choice?

As an English speaker in Tokyo, I am also always drawn to the selective English language marketing, often an odd English name for the property. This building advertised in the Sendagaya JR station has a name that has a certain logic, but which also completely fails as an English language name.

Yes, Gro-bel is a shortened form of “Grow Best Life Stage.” It’s also the Japanese pronunciation of the word “global.” What was meant as optimistic, modern and international, instead comes off as bizarre, stilted, and heavy handed. In this context, using English is more decorative than functional or expressive.

Sky Tree, the view from below and from up top

SkyTree_view_from_ground

日立さんのおかげで、やっとスカイツリーに登ることができました。構造と景色がすばらしいです。夕暮れのときがおすすめです。

Hitachi recently invited me to visit Sky Tree this summer. I’d delayed visiting because it seems far away from where we live, and because of the long lines. Seeing it complete, however, is very impressive with its exposed structure and unbelievable city views. I recommend going at twilight when the sunlight is dramatic, and then slowly the city lights up as the sky darkens.

Hitachi is responsible for the elevator between the first and the top observatory decks. In addition to its large capacity, the elevator ascends very quickly and is thus a showcase for Hitachi’s latest technologies. I was surprised to learn that when it is windy, this upper elevator is often closed for passenger safety.

I loved seeing the bay, the Sumida River, Marunouchi and in the distance Shinjuku.

SkyTree_sumida_marunouchi SkyTree_sunset

Giant sidewalk weed is as tall as the shop behind it. Anyone know what it is?

giant_weed_sidewalk_shop_yoyogi_uehara

不便なところなのに、この背の高い雑草がお店の前に育っています。店のオーナは気にしていないようです。誰かこの植物の名前を知っていますか。

It seems that the shop owner has long accommodated herself and her shop to the annual giant weed that ‘s growing just in front. The leaves are enormous. What is this summer weed?

UPDATE: Thanks to my smart readers, I’ve learned it’s called キリ (kiri) in Japanese and Paulownia tomentosa in Latin.

My Tokyo garden and design work is featured in a fashion brand video

このビデオのなかで、スペースの小さなところで庭を作るインスピレーションを、近所の方からもらったことについて話します。友達のショーが作った東京のファッションブランドのPVです。ベランダの庭とデザインの仕事についても話します。

My friend Sho, whom I met in Nakano, created this promotional video for a Japanese fashion brand called ID Daily Wear. You can see that I am wearing their super high-quality and made in Japan pocket t-shirt. But it’s cool that the video also introduces my high-rise garden, the field of design anthropology, and why my neighbors inspire me to document Tokyo Green Space. The photography and especially the editing tell a a big story in a few minutes. The Japanese translation is also superb. Thanks, Sho!

Mesh bag and clothes pins protect sidewalk blueberries

blueberry_net_clothespins_sidewalk_nakano
近所の方が、メッシュバッグと洗濯挟みで歩道のブルーベリーを守っています。食べるのを楽しみにしているみたいです。

I love how this neighbor is protecting her delicious blueberries with a mesh bag and some clothes pins. It’s such a DIY solution. She must be looking forward to eating the berries.