Recently I conducted a kids art workshop at Shibaura’s public elementary school. The free event was organized by Mitsui Fudosan, Recruit, and Neighbors Meeting, which printed this cool map of Shibaura. We asked kids to draw an animal or plant and add it to the map.
There were several surprises. Many of the kids who participated were two to four years old. They loved the coloring book of land and sea creatures created by Shu Kuge. On the Shibaura map, the kids were drawn to the water, both Tokyo Bay and the canals, as well as to the existing parks. One kid made his own Tokyo Tower and folded it so that it would stand vertically.
The other surprise is that kids still enjoy coloring and drawing. The event was billed as a celebration of future city, and our workshop competed for attention with a very cool pedal powered, ride-on-top shinkansen, a 3D printer, solar-powered remote control cars, and iPad games.
In August, I began working with Mitsui Real Estate, Recruit, and a small NGO to introduce a new luxury high-rise residential tower in Shibaura, a less known waterfront area between Shinagawa and Hamamatsucho. It’s near where the base of Rainbow Bridge is located.
In this online interview (in Japanese) and in real estate brochures distributed around Tokyo, I relate my experience working in the neighborhood at Shibaura House, where I led gardening and fieldwork workshops for locals and international visitors, adults and small children.
The new tower, which is just now breaking ground, contributes to the restoration of Edo-era canals by creating a public waterfront park. This park contributes to the developer’s goal of creating a resilient community that includes new and existing residents. Providing greater access to the waterfront also restores a vital part of Tokyo’s history that was neglected in the 20th century.
In the very early morning on a Sunday, these seniors are enjoying the local park for exercise and community.
In the park next to Higashi Koenji.
I often show images of the long cherry tree path that leads from Tatsumi’s subway to the municipal swimming pool. The 10 minute walk mixes all that’s both beautiful and dirty about 1960s infrastructure projects. There’s the amazing public sports facility, a now mature park with tall trees bordering the elevated freeway, and an odd mix of new construction, prior buildings, and informal green spaces that benefit from a lack of attention.
This long allée of cherry trees in Tatsumi, perhaps a kilometer-long straight path, is magnificent, especially at night. I suppose they planted the cherry trees at the same time the elevated freeways were constructed. All the trees in the park are reaching maturity now, probably 40 years later.
On a recent trip to New York City, I took my film camera to some iconic parks. Above is the reservoir in Central Park, a place for exercise, leisure, and path between Upper East Side and Upper West Side.
Below is the High Line, a more recent park created from a dis-used elevated train line west of Chelsea. I love how in both environments, you can enjoy nature and feel connected to an urban landscape.
Commonly called Japanese bayberry, this fruit tree near Tokyo Metropolitan Government was full of yamamomo fruits. This tree is apparently often planted along roads and in parks. I love how the fruit is at once edible and very ornamental.
Recently I visited the Ghibli museum for the first time. The exhibits are fun, and the whole experience is very Miyazaki: a blend of Western influences in a very Japanese fantasy world. I particularly liked the recreations of Miyazaki’s work space, overflowing with books and drawings. I was a bit surprised at the overflowing ashtrays: undoubtedly realistic but a little odd for a children’s space.
I love how the building itself blends in with the surrounding park, with green walls and roofs, articulated spaces, and mature trees everywhere. It’s an appropriately magical environment that dissolves the lines between people and nature, inside and out.
My friend Matt sent me this intricate sakura weather map: it shows the updated forecast for the start of cherry blossoms across the Japanese archipelago. Even if you can’t read Japanese, it’s impressive to see how much weather forecasting amplifies cherry blossom season.
Today I also heard from Twitter’s @Matt_Alt that there are big signs at Inokashira park Big asking visitors to refrain from holding cherry blossom viewing parties there. This is one of Tokyo’s most famous parks, and one of the most popular places for young people to celebrate spring with all night and all day drinking parties.
It’s now just over two weeks after the horrific natural and man-made disaster that began with the East Japan great earthquake. With looming energy shortages, national mourning for the dead, and continued fears about nuclear fallout, Tokyo life will not be the same. Yet it is still impossible to fully know what will emerge in the coming months and years.
Will these events increase or reverse Japan’s hyper-urbanization? How will people respond to new concerns about food and water safety? Can the government and industry regain trust and provide leadership? How can civil society contribute to rebuilding the country and restoring Japan’s international reputation?
And can public spaces and local businesses flourish in a time of anxiety and uncertainty?