Ducks keep city dwellers company at ponds and rivers


Ducks are still a common sight in Tokyo, wherever there’s clean water. Don’t they get cold in winter? Also in Shinjuku Gyoen.

I mistook this rampant winter “crow’s cucumber” for passion fruit



This weed-like vine is full of fruit, hanging from the power lines near the Odakyu rail tracks. In Japanese, it’s called “karasuuri,” and some varieties are used in Chinese medicine. I love how rampant it is, even in winter.

Hard-hat intervention at sidewalk Sony Aquarium in Ginza. Beware of the sidewalk shark!


Not sure what the crew is up to, but it makes for a dramatic surprise in Ginza. Beware of the sidewalk shark!

Making Friends heads to London with tanuki


Making Friends has been accepted for a tech-focused London conference on ethnography and business. This poster is a mash-up of real-time research, storytelling, and prank. Making Friends tests the boundaries of inter-species friendship while risking rejection and misunderstanding.

Please share this poster with anyone who might be interested. We are also seeking a design school, corporation, or other organization that would be interested in hosting a Making Friends talk, workshop, or consulting project.
Below we explain what Making Friends is about and the benefits for creativity, visual story-telling, and risk-taking. It also includes the anonymous conference reviews that are confused and appreciative. Thanks, as always, to my co-creator A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen.
Click to enlarge, or download the 2 page PDF that  includes the poster, sponsor benefits, and anonymous conference reviews. Thanks for joining us in improving the world’s Making Friends abilities.

A woman walks her pet turtle in the rain, at a Koenji shopping street




Sometimes, I think nothing surprises me any more in Tokyo. And then I see this lovely woman walking down Koenji’s Look shopping street with her pet turtle. The turtle looks like he is swimming in air, legs reaching forward and back and eyes taking in the surroundings.

The human guardian explains that she is carrying this towel under her umbrella to wipe off the turtle. Apparently, her turtle does not like to get wet! Thanks to both of them for adding some cheer to a rainy day.

The captain and crew shut the door of the Ogasawara Maru



I thought there’s no better end to this travelogue about Ogasawara than this photo of the captain and crew getting ready to shut the door to the ship prior to departure.

Elaborate send-off ceremony on ferry’s departure



When leaving Ogasawara, there is an elaborate send-off. Men, women and children in Shinto happi jackets pound drums and ask for a safe voyage. A flotilla, including kayaks, fishing and diving boats, follows the ship through the harbor. And as the boat nears the edge of the open sea, in a scene that all the regulars seem familiar with, people in the small boats dive and jump into the sea in showy unison.

Truly, this is the most jolly transit send-off I could imagine.

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Fallen leaves are purple, gold, silver, and rust colors



I was surprised to see these fallen leaves in March. I guess subtropical Ogasawara’s seasons are very distinct from Tokyo.

Only recent human history: American, Japanese, American, Japanese ownership of Ogasawara



What’s surprising about Ogasawara is that there are no indigenous people. First settled in the mid 1800s by Americans who departed from Hawaii, the Japanese seized it during their colonial expansion, retaken by the United States after World War II, and then returned to Japan in the 1970s.

There are numerous reminders of the war. Inside the many hills you still see dank tunnels created for the island’s defense. Apparently there was no land war here, unlike (somewhat nearby) Iwo Jima. There’s also this incredibly forlorn-looking, Saint George church in the main port village. I love how the entry walkway does not meet the current sidewalk.

It’s odd to be in a place with such little human history. The English name for the islands, Bonin, is a mispronunciation of the Japanese words “no people” (bu nin, or mu nin).


Giant tree fern with unusual trunk



Inside the fenced-in Nature Sanctuary, we saw this lovely native fern tree.

Stylish Tokyo dog in a wetsuit on Ogasawara’s Miyanohama beach



I had a nice chat with this dog’s owner at Miyanohama beach. It turns out she lives 1 or 2 kilometers from me here in Tokyo. Her orange windbreaker was almost as stylish as this incredible dog wetsuit. I think he needs a surf board. In March, the water is still cold so I guess this is also practical.

Native palm trees in Chichijima



Ogasawara has two native palm trees. Both have very simple common names in Japanese: biroyashi, which means fan palm or Chinese fan palm,  and noyashi, a feather palm that uses the “no” of Nakano, which means field or rustic. The noyashi has beautiful, almost golden leaf bases on its trunk.  Below, in a nature sanctuary on the east side of Chichijima, the biroyashi rise above the low scrub on steep cliffs.