Potted camellia brightens concrete patio dead space

普通だけれどもたくましい椿は、コンクリートのテラスに命を与えます。だれがそこに置いて、剪定しているのでしょうか。 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 […]

Dead space plaza in front of Koenji JR station

Koenji is one of my favorite Tokyo neighborhoods: full of cool small businesses, great food, live music, Itoh Toyo’s new theatre ZaKoenji, and many places to explore. But the plaza in front of the Koenji station is unbelievable ugly and full of dead space. Apart from the thinnest border of flowering azaleas and a few […]

Dead space by design IV: Stacked freeways in city

In front of Shinjuku’s Opera City, a high rise office tower with cultural facilities including theaters and a museum, four levels of stacked freeways cast shadows, pollute the air, and block pedestrian space with giant concrete support columns. The presence of even one elevated freeway undermines pedestrian life and divides neighborhoods. Are all the elevated freeways […]

Dead space by design III: Furukawa river buried by a freeway

On my way to Temple University, I passed the Sannohashi bridge, and realized that the river was almost completely covered by an elevated freeway. Later I learned the river is called Furukawa (古川), an extension of the Shibuyakawa. The freeway destroys all the life the river could support, and also diminishes the value of the […]

Dead space by design, II

This five or ten year old residential mid-rise residential building is surrounded on two sides by hardscaped alleys that provide fire access. This design intentionally creates dead space since the developers chose not to allow pedestrian traffic. Nor did they create any amenity that would attract residents. Perhaps it keeps the apartments quieter, but this […]

Dead space by design

Tokyo Green Space celebrates the ingenuity of people who create greenery in a city that is often poorly planned, dominated by concrete, and overly paved. However, it is worth pointing out the prevalence of dead spaces by design, often created by local governments and even Tokyo Metro. Above is a nearly brand new elevator providing […]

Fantasy landscape with fountain, palm, and odd characters

A miniature fantasy landscape freely shared on a Tokyo curbside. ミニチュアのファンタジー風景が舗道 の縁石を占領している。 This tiny curbside garden is a fantasy landscape in miniature in what was probably dead space previously between the house and the road. There’s moving water, a palm tree, plants, and several odd characters. I found it just across the road from the […]

Barren space between sidewalk and Roppongi Hills

どうして六本木ヒルズの入り口は死んでいるのだろう? Why is the entrance to Roppongi Hills so ugly and uninviting? Every time I walk from the subway into Roppongi Hills I am shocked at the extremely ugly first view of this mega-complex. In addition to the elevated freeway, pedestrians are greeted by this horrendous, wide, astroturf-covered dead space in front of Roppongi Hills […]

Does anyone know the name of this gorgeous independent flower?

Growing in a crack between two walls, I spotted this gorgeous red flower. Tokyo’s ample rainfall allows plants to thrive in the most unlikely places. I love how the flowers provide a concentrated does of fall color. I looked in various plant books but couldn’t find the name. Does anyone know its name in English […]

A tree of death outside Family Mart

I was speechless when I first saw this craft project outside a local convenience store. Perched above a cardboard box is a tree of death, made of dozens of cigarette cartons and festooned with Christmas lights. Maybe it was meant to generate attention for tobacco purchases before the recent 40% tax increase. I wonder who […]

Shinjuku Ward Office greening on sidewalk, facade and roof

A friend told me to check out this green “bus stop” between Kabukicho and Hanazono Shrine. This incredible vine providing shade for the sidewalk is no longer a bus stop, but is in front of Shinjuku’s ward office. As I’ve written before, the wards seem to be leading Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government […]

A historic landmark buried under freeway in Tokyo

Approaching by foot or by car, you would not know that up ahead is one of Tokyo’s most famous historic landmarks, Nihonbashi (日本橋, or literally Japan Bridge). During Edo, it was an important wooden bridge in the center of the capital. Today, Japan’s highway network uses the bridge as the zero mile marker. Despite its […]

Azabu Juban dead space in central Tokyo

Azabu Juban is one of Tokyo’s most central and most expensive neighborhoods. Arriving at the Tokyo Metro station for a meeting with a book editor, I was struck by just how unattractive the roadway is. In the opposite direction are small streets with traditional Japanese food, French cafes, and many charming places. But in this […]

Agris Seijo rental farm in Seijogakuenmae

I visited Odakyu’s Agris Seijo rental farm in Seijogakuenmae in Setagaya and was prepared to be charmed by a community vegetable farm built by a rail company above their tracks. Three years ago, the Odakyu corporation rebuilt the station, undergrounded the railway, and used some of the new land to promote urban farming. But I left […]