A Japanese engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal created this important floodgate and canal alongside the Arakawa River in the 1920s. The red paint and the cherry blossoms make it scenic as well as functional.
UPDATE: Above is the film version, which took awhile to be developed. The colors seem much richer than the digital iPhone image below.
Between Kyodo station and Nodai’s campus, a few old mansions remain with large yards and mature trees. The bicycling student’s brown hair matches the wood fence.
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.
This road beneath a canopy of street trees leads to the Nodai campus from Chitose Funabashi. When I commute there by bike, it makes a lovely end to my ride.
On the long walk from Kyodo station to Nodai (Tokyo University of Agriculture), there’s a house and large garden where the residents are always gardening. This year they created a huge, two meter high trellis of fusenkazura (フウセンカズラ). The name is literally balloon kudzu, and despite looking delicate, it’s very hardy. The vine produces lots of white flowers, followed by a multitude of green balls that then turn orange. This year, I’m growing two specimens on our balcony.
Like all of Tokyo, the Nodai campus seems to be in a state of constant demolition and reconstruction. I like how they have preserved this old grove of tall trees that remind you that this Agricultural school has a one hundred plus year history as a center of innovation and learning.
To get to Nodai, I bike along a long and straight road covering an old water pipe. Last time I saw this small corn field in Setagaya, surrounded by various types of dense housing.
What a happy classroom taught by professor owl. Yuki spotted this cute diorama in the gap space in a resident’s cinderblock wall, between Nodai and the Kyodo station. What a tiny surprise.
I stopped to admire these two rows of snap peas growing in a micro-farm between the houses. I love the trellis work, and the combination of white flowers and green vegetable.
I was on my bike riding to Nodai (Tokyo University of Agriculture), and cutting across Suginami and Setagaya on this unusually straight, narrow road. I believe there’s a sewer line underneath which makes this long street especially useful above and below ground.
On my balcony, I am going to do a final snap pea harvest this week. The leaves are turning moldy so I think now’s the finish line for this winter crop. I already started some cucumber plants to take over in the summer. I train them on the railing, and then, above that, a net.
Tokyo University of Agriculture Professor Suzuki is planning a firefly habitat at a junior high school. Each year, teachers and students from the Tokyo school visit Gunma to study fireflies. This year I was also invited.
Fireflies need clean water and darkness. According to Professor Suzuki, creating habitat in the city also requires a “social design.” The temple, cemetary, and senior center near the school are also invited to participate.
When we arrived at Kawaba-mura, the school girls weeded a rice field and played with frogs and crabs in the creek. Even though they are city kids, the students are very brave.
At night, we saw Genji fireflies and Heiki fireflies. There are a lot of fireflies on the edge between the forest and the rice field.
We stayed at a hotel called “Nakano Village” which on the inside is Japanese modern style, and on the outside the building looks like part of the hillside. It was designed by the famous Sakakura Associates.
Kawaba mura has many apple orchards, and recently they are also growing blueberries.
The trip made me think of the following:
- How can gardens be created in multiple connected sites?
- How can all city and country kids learn about each other’s environments and lives?
- How can cities begin to value darkness as essential to their vitality?
- How can kids and adults create habitat and support wildlife where they study, work, play, and live?
This beautiful, new year bonsai made by a friend matches an evergreen tree with a pot re-made from shards.
I received this gorgeous new year bonsai gift from Matthew Puntigam, a friend and research fellow colleague at the Tokyo University of Agriculture’s Landscape Architecture Science department (農大). It’s a perfect new year gift: the woody bark tree retains its leaves in winter, the beautiful bowl re-created to show its cracks, lush moss and stones from a recent trip to Mie.
The tree is called アセビ (Asebi in Japanese, and Pieris japonica in Latin). My childhood home in the mid-Atlantic United States had a pair of these flowering broad-leaf evergreens by the front door. This specimen is simultaneously showing new growth and flower buds.
The method of putting broken ceramics back together is called 金継ぎ (kintsugi). This pot is one of Matt’s first, which he learned at the Suginami ceramic studio Shiho (史火) where I also make flowerpots and vases. Often gold is used, but I think silver goes very well with the black ceramic and winter bonsai.
This past weekend was the International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress in Suzhou, China. My co-author Matthew Puntigam traveled there with professors and graduate students of the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and he presented our paper co-written with Professor Suzuki Makoto.
The Kanda River connects many residential, commercial, and downtown neighborhoods before emptying into the Sumida River. We looked at the past, present and possible future of what is the longest river that originates within Tokyo. The biodiversity potential is significant: in one small section of Tokyo’s Kanda river, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s 2001 survey documented 260 plant species, 42 riverbed species, 9 types of fish, 291 types of insects, 30 bird species, 2 reptiles species, and 3 mammal species.
You can download a PDF of our paper, Biodiversity and New Urbanism in Tokyo: The Role of the Kanda River (6 MB). Your comments and questions are most welcome.
On the trip to Nasu in Tochigi two weekends ago, we visited a unique mountain cow dairy called Shinrin no bokujo (森林の牧場) that produces delicious milk and ice cream while addressing a crisis in Japanese forestry. The recycling company Amita created this dairy and another in Tango, northern Kyoto on the Japan Sea, as an ecological experiment.
With the collapse of Japan’s timber industry, many mountains are covered with single species trees that have not been maintained and are now dying. The mountain dairy idea is to allow the cows to maintain and improve the forests. The concept ties dairy farming with healthy food production, watershed conservation, and rice farming.
The milk is currently sold at Isetan department store Queen Isetan grocery stores, as well as onsite. Lots of families came with young children to see this unique dairy. The milk was extremely rich and delicious, with a hard cream top, packaged in a glass bottle with attractive graphics.
One of the TEDxSeeds members will be starting work there, and we met the farm manager, who is a graduate of Tokyo University of Agriculture. It was exciting to see this ecological experiment run as a business. The Japanese president of Qualcomm is also interested in new farming techniques that address food quality and ecological revitalization. Since rural abandonment has become a major national issue, these experiments are very timely and needed.
Visiting the cows was fun. They were extremely friendly. They allowed some heavy petting, and in return offered a very slobbery welcome. I had no idea their mouths are so full of saliva! Some of the young calves are lent out as natural lawn mowers, much as goats are now providing fossil fuel free mowing and complementary fertilizer in Silicon Valley. The grown cows are too heavy to transport easily.
The buildings on site, both for visitors and for milking, are simple and very attractive.