Garden diplomacy

Launching new Japanese Gardens Outside Japan website for Nodai

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海外の日本庭園についての新しいサイトが立ち上げになりました。このサイトには、アフリカからロシアまで、何百もの日本庭園が紹介されています。サイトのスポンサーは著名な専門家である東京農業大学の鈴木誠教授です。日本庭園は生きた芸術作品であるため、地域社会との継続した様々なサポートが必要です。きれいなサイトデザインとロゴは、イアン・リナムさん(Ian Lynam)のおかげです。よろしくお願いいたします!

I am very pleased to announce a new website that provides scholarly and general public information about the hundreds of Japanese gardens outside Japan. This project puts online the database of Tokyo University of Agriculture’s Professor Makoto SUZUKI, the world’s expert on this unique Japanese cultural export. There are Japanese gardens in six continents, in conditions ranging from arid Australia to urban Brazil. I hope that my blog readers may have the opportunity to visit one of these living art works near where they live or travel.

A special thanks to the incomparably talented Ian Lynam, who created the visual design and the logo for the new Center for International Japanese Garden Studies.

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Thousands of tulips at Netherlands Embassy open house

4月13日と14日に、オランダの大使館の庭が一般公開されて、一万一千本のチューリップが見られました。チューリップはとてもきれいで、とても特別な場所です。毎年二回、一般公開されます。

Showing off 11,000 tulips specially planted, the Netherlands Embassy opens its gardens to the public on April 13 and 14. I was fortunate to go the first day, and see the splendid varieties of color, height, and shape before the rains started.

One of Tokyo’s oldest and most renowned garden maintenance firm expertly selected dozens of hybrids, created a grand walkway, and also integrated tulips into the main garden of the residence. Planning extended the season as long as possible, which I heard is about three weeks.

Amidst all the bright colors in this grand setting, I felt like I was in a mini-Keukenhof crossed with Gatsby’s home in West Egg. We caught a glimpse of two chefs working in the kitchen, which made me think this diplomatic outpost with 400 years of history is not so far from Downton Abbey.

If you have a chance, please go today, or in the fall on Culture Day when both the residence and garden are open to the public.

Chapter on city branding with new green spaces

都市ブランド設定についての新しい本が出版されました。緑の空間についての章を書きました。機会があったら、読んでくださいね。今のところ英語版だけです。

Palgrave Macmillan‘s new City Branding book includes my chapter on city branding with new green spaces. Amazon’s says it’s in stock, but I am still waiting for the publisher to send me a copy. There are many chapters I am looking forward to reading, including Roland Kelts’ chapter on Tokyo (@rolandkelts). Many thanks to Keith Dinnie for editing this volume.

Preface; K.Dinnie
Foreword; B.Baker
PART I: THEORY
Introduction to the Theory of City Branding; K.Dinnie
Branding the City as an Attractive Place to Live; A.Insch
City Branding and Inward Investment; A.C.Middleton
City Branding and the Tourist Gaze; G.Hospers
City Branding Partnerships; S.van Gelder
City Branding and Stakeholder Management; A.Stevens
Paradoxes of City Branding and Societal Changes; C.Ooi
City Branding through Food Culture – Insights from the Regional Branding Level; R.Tellstrom
City Branding and Sustainable Urbanism; J.Braiterman
Online City Branding; M.Florek
PART II: CASES
Introduction to the Practice of City Branding; K.Dinnie
The City Branding of Accra; A.Ebow Spio
The City Branding of Ahmedabad; S.Nair
Athens City Branding and the 2004 Olympic Games; M.Fola
The City Branding of Barcelona: A Success Story; J.C.Belloso
Chongqing’s City Branding – The Role of Graphic Design; F.Lau& A.Leung
Edinburgh City Branding; K.Wardrop
The Hague, International City of Peace and Justice; B.Hulleman& R.Govers
Kuala Lumpur City Branding; G.Musa& T.C.Melewar
Lisbon City Branding; J.Freire
The City Branding of Montevideo; P.Hartmann
New York City Branding; P.Bendel
Paris City Branding; J.Kapferer
Seoul City Branding; K.Y.Kyung
The City Branding of Hong Kong; T.Loo
Strategic Planning Director for China at Mediaedge:cia
Sydney City Branding; G.Parmenter
Tokyo’s City Brand; R.Kelts
Wollongong City Branding; G.Kerr

Urban pop-up parks in Lima, Paris and New York

小さなポップアップ・ガーデンは都市を美しくする。短い間だけ、公道に庭を作る。東京にもポップアップ・ガーデンを作ろう!@5by50 さん、 ありがとうございます。

Pop-up gardens beautify cities, and temporarily bring gardens to the public. Let’s bring this idea to Tokyo! Thanks @5by50‘s Nicole Fall for pointing this out.

Lima, Peru, New York, and Paris each recently hosted pop-up gardens in the city center. With sponsors including a local government, a city botanic garden and the Dutch Flower Council, these temporary installations create beautiful gardens in crowded urban spaces. Although temporary, maybe these designs will inspire people to expect more from their everyday city environments. Thanks to Trend Central for grouping these three recent projects together, and to 5 by 50‘s Nicole Fall for sending me the link.

Two embassies in Azabu Juban

I visited the architects at Front Office Tokyo, and had the shock of discovering huge estates, corporate clubs, and sprawling embassies in Azabu Juban. It’s an area between the station and Keio’s campus that I have never been to. Probably the largest and most intriguing grounds belong to the Mitsui Club.

The contrast between the gorgeous wooded grounds of the Italian embassy and the newly constructed Australian embassy is painful. The Italian embassy is hidden inside a huge park-like setting. The Australian one is an enormous modern building with almost no landscaping.

Perhaps adding insult to their national pride, the animals that represent the nation are in what look like cages. Is this to express the cultural heritage of the former penal colony? My spouse reminds me that Australia is one of the few countries that eats their national animals. Is that bad or just practical?

Poppies growing in a crack in the sidewalk

I saw these beautiful poppies growing in the crack of a sidewalk. It reminded me of the first image that I took for Tokyo Green Space two years ago, of pansies growing in a sidewalk crack. I am still struck by the ingenuity and generosity of Tokyo’s unheralded urban gardeners. They are beautifying an environment that is often ugly, overbuilt and poorly planned.

The poppies make me think of the pansies photo. I recently received an interesting request by email asking for permission to include that original photo in a book about urban design and climate change that Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer of the  City of New York, is writing.

I am continually amazed by the importance of observing small details and the power of the internet to connect people who are distant by location, profession, and circumstance. It is both humbling and inspiring.

Signs of spring

Tokyo has had a strange April. Last Friday there was hail. I was surprised to hear a squishy sound beneath my shoes. Will winter never end? Fortunately, it is now a bit warmer, and I managed to pot up all the small plants I bought for my balcony garden: columbine, two types of jasmine, some yellow button flowers, a clover, and a small purple green vine.

The cherry blossoms ended suddenly with the rain and wind: briefly, the trees are redder as just the flower stems remain, and then suddenly the trees start leafing out. As soon as cherry blossoms pass, dogwood opens up.

Tokyo has a lot of dogwood trees, which come from the mid-Atlantic of the United States. The tree represents a cultural exchange between nations, with Japan providing Washington D.C. with monumental cherry trees, and the United States offering Japan dogwood. It’s strange that many Tokyo residents do not know the origin or significance of dogwood trees. They remind me of my childhood in Baltimore.

Gardening for Strangers in Tokyo: New Huffington Post article

The Huffington Post published the English version of my recent Newsweek Japan article. Entitled “Gardening for Strangers in Tokyo,” it argues that the smallest gardens connect city people with nature, culture and history. Written in a personal voice to show a foreigner’s view to a largely Japanese audience, the article emphasizes how “Tokyo’s distinctive streetscape encourages proximity with many small gardens and their gardeners,” creating human as well as environmental benefit.

Gardening for Strangers in Tokyo

(This article originally appeared in Newsweek Japan on January 12, 2009 in Japanese)

Spending several weeks in Tokyo on a business trip in 2008, I was startled and enchanted to discover its human scale and its streets alive with people and plants. Like many foreigners, I assumed Tokyo would be all cold high-rises, crowded Shibuya scrambles, and flashing neon advertising. In short, I imagined the world’s largest metropolis entirely removed from the natural world.

I brought to Tokyo a lifelong interest in gardening. What surprises me still are Tokyo residents’ ingenuity and passion for cultivating plants and community in a crowded, over-built city. On leaving a beginner’s ceramics class in a humble Tokyo neighborhood one day, I came across four perfect pansies growing in the crack of a narrow sidewalk.

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This image of Tokyo as a gardeners’ city motivated me to relocate from San Francisco to research and write about Tokyo Green Space. Placing my research in the context of design anthropology and urban ecology, I was extremely fortunate to receive generous support in 2009 from Hitachi, which is committed to a Japanese approach to environmental protection and to cultural diplomacy.

The sidewalk pansies show that Tokyo is organized differently than United States and European cities, and that many of these differences are nearly invisible to Japanese people. I formulated several guiding questions. Why do Tokyo residents care so deeply about their surroundings? What role can nature play in dense urban environments? What can other cities learn from Tokyo’s urban gardening culture?

I began collecting images of gardens visible from streets and sidewalks. Surprises included a valuable bonsai collection growing on a private residence’s cinder block wall; rice maturing in styrofoam containers; a single, exquisite mini-watermelon supported by a wooden stand in a Ginza backstreet. Sadly, in San Francisco and most developed world cities, these potted plants would be quickly stolen or vandalized. Meanwhile few Tokyo residents connect the respect shown to public plants with their unequaled personal safety in streets and transit.

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Rushing into a men’s room in the Tokyo Metro, I glimpsed ivy growing in a two-liter plastic bottle lying on its side. In the twenty-first century, United States cities permanently closed their subway restrooms for “public safety.” Here in Tokyo I could calmly imagine the anonymous person who beautified an underground utility with a living organism and minimal resources. Did he return regularly to change the water? What inspired his passion for plants and his kindness to strangers?

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Across the four seasons, I observed Tokyo residents celebrating nature together in public places. For hanami (cherry blossom viewing), it is common to see people sleeping overnight in parks and along rivers to reserve spaces for blue sheets and the next day’s outdoor party for family, co-workers, or friends. The pink cherry blossoms transform the entire city as boisterous crowds share drinks and food. In fall, many thousands view ginko trees turning bright yellow in Aoyama, and special evening “light up” displays of red maple trees in traditional Japanese public gardens.

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Japanese design leaders & directions

Metropolis Magazine has a special issue devoted to Japanese design. Based on a show Japan by Design, organized by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) at New York City’s Furniture Fair, the focus is on distinctive Japanese design called kansei (sensibility, or physical and emotional appeal). The three elements are hyogo (appearence), dosa (intent), and kokoro (heart).

My favorite of the dozens of products displayed is Nakamura Yugo‘s interactive design practice, including the website above. It is minimal, playful and truly engaging. He has worked for Dentsu, Uniqlo and other new media innovators. Most of the other works are industrial design, furniture, and technology. It is not surprising to see a focus on universal design, sustainability, crafts and the everyday. But I did not know that METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry) has a Design Policy Office, promoting Japanese design as central to the nation’s future economy.

I wish Japan’s urban gardening was also viewed as uniquely Japanese design that could be exported to Asian and global cities. Bonsai miniaturization, the blurring of public and private space, use of marginal land, and habitat creation offer functional and emotional improvements to urban life. Maybe, these urban garden trends need to be commercialized to become design trends. In the meantime, government promotion might encourage increased tourism to Japan and garden diplomacy abroad..

Urbio 2010 conference in Nagoya

Nagoya will be hosting a conference next May called URBIO 2010, on urban biodiversity and design. The conference precedes October’s 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10) which will also be held in Nagoya.

I am excited about the conference’s focus on urban biodiversity. With the world rapidly becoming urban, and Japan leading the way in rural to city migration, cities are becoming key sites for human life and the promotion of biodiversity.

The deadline for suggesting a presentation is December 31, so please sign up now if you want to attend. My understanding is that all presentations will be accepted as the organizers are trying to create an inclusive experience.

Over the past months I have realized that Nagoya is promoting many new urbanism events, including a recent Creative Design City Nagoya conference, which had a keynote by Professor John Wood of Goldsmiths, University of London.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Last week I gave several talks about Tokyo Green Space, including at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimusho, 外務書). The 1960s modernist building and landscaping impressed me. You can see the bright yellow ginkos in the background and the last fall leaves in the foreground.

My main point to the Ministry was that Japan has not done a good job of explaining its accomplishments in creating livable cities. Both its ordinary gardeners who compensate for a history of poor planning, and its landscape visionaries who are creating new public spaces for people and wildlife are unknown within and outside Japan. Most foreigners are surprised at how human-scaled and enjoyable Tokyo is.

Given climate change and global urbanization, Japan should promote its achievements and expertise in new urbanism, with relevance to developed and emerging cities around the world.

I also gave talks last week at Hitachi Ltd Headquarters to an audience that included Hitachi global business, defense systems, environmental strategy, and research institute leaders, as well as Kajima and ARUP biodiversity specialists, university professors, and Japanese media. Voted the MVP (most voted person), I also gave an impromptu speech, in Japanese, at the wonderful TEDxSeeds conference organized by the extraordinary culture curator Satoh Keiko.

Biodiversity Remakes Tokyo

The Huffington Post published my article entitled “Biodiversity Remakes Tokyo.” I will become a regular blogger, so if you like the article please leave a comment on the Huffington Post, post it to your Facebook account, or Tweet it to your friends. Thank you!

Here’s the first four paragraphs:

The Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference addresses unparalleled environmental crisis and the need to transform our relationship with nature. Many people assume that nature has no place in the city. On the contrary, cities are central sites for a sustainable, post-industrial era that supports population growth and a high quality of life. Biodiversity and urban forests can thrive with concrete and people.

Ordinary gardeners and environmental visionaries in Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis, are improving urban life for human and environmental benefit. While mainstream environmentalists work to save distant forests, urban innovators are creating new shared places that connect city residents to the environment and each other. Successful strategies include maximizing limited resources, engaging urban dwellers, and sharing daily life with plants and wildlife.

Tokyo’s size, density, lack of open space, and past policy failures paradoxically make it a model for rebuilding mature cities and designing hundreds of new cities. Along with climate change, the world faces unprecedented urbanization, reaching 60% of the world population or 5 billion people by 2030. African and Asian urban populations will double between 2000 and 2030.

To make cities sustainable and attractive, limited resources must be used for maximum benefit. Tokyo already offers vibrant and safe street life with relatively small private spaces. Because of usage fees and public investment, more daily trips are made by transit, walking and bicycling than automobile. And large numbers of often elderly residents tend gardens spilling out from homes into streets. With minimal horizontal area between homes, Tokyo residents are experts in blurring public and private spaces, and growing vertical gardens in even the narrowest openings.

Click to read the full story on the Huffington Post.

Japan Times: Tokyo’s urban design role

The Japan Times published my op-ed article “Tokyo’s urban design role.” My argument is that Tokyo’s past urban design failures paradoxically make it a model for rebuilding existing cities and designing hundreds of emerging cities. In the context of climate change and global warming, livable cities can create a new balance between people and  nature.

I talk about fireflies, Ginza rice and honeybees, modern bonsai, satoyama in the city, businesses and biodiversity, and how Japan can promote innovations in urban life, alongside achievements in popular culture and high technology.

Diane Durston talks about Old Kyoto and Portland

Diane Durston

Diane Durston will be speaking on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at the International House of Japan. Her talk is entitled “Bringing Old Kyoto Home: Author Re-invents Japan in a Pacific Northwest Garden.” She will talk about preservation of Kyoto historic buildings (Kyo-machiya and machinami), and how she has brought Japanese craft and culture to a wide variety of United States forums and audiences.

Diane is currently the Curator of Art, Culture and Educator at the Portland Japanese Garden, the finest Japanese garden in North America. She is the author Diane of many books and articles, including Old Kyoto, in print since 1986 and the current second edition with a forward by Donald Richie. Previously she worked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Whitney Museum, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania.

You can reserve online a seat for the talk at: http://www.swet.jp/index.php/events/october_28_bringing_home_old_kyoto/


Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Traditional Japanese garden Kyu Shiba Rikyu dates to 1678 when land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay became the residence of Okugawa Tadatamo, an official of Tokugawa Shogunate. Kyu Shiba Rikyu is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens, along with Koishikawa Korakuen. Kyu Shiba Rikyu was destroyed by fire in the 1923 earthquake, rebuilt and gifted by the Emperor as a city park.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu garden

Today this stroll garden with a focal pond and two small islands sits steps from Hamamatsuchou station, and surrounded by office buildings, bullet trains, the JR Yamanote line, a monorail, elevated train, and two elevated highways. The pond reflects manicured black pines, office towers and billboards. There is also a very elegant archery range with grass lawn, tatami seating area, and targets inked by hand. (See photos after the jump below).

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

The pond and island were created over 400 years ago to recall China’s Seiko Lake (Xi Hu) and Reizan sacred mountain in Hangzhou (Zhejiang). Like at Koishikawa Korakuen, Kyu Shiba Rikyu was created at a time when garden design, philosophy, literature, and painting all borrowed heavily from China. Given our last century’s conflicts between Japan and China, is it too much to hope for artistic borrowings in this century?

A wonderful garden diplomacy would be a photographic exploration of these 400 year old Japanese gardens and the Chinese landscapes that inspired them. How have the natural and designed environments changed? What contemporary landscapes could inspire today’s art exchanges?

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