This is a photo from Shibaura House‘s Community Herb Garden project kick-off. I love the bird house planters, and the fact that the large wooden planters have hidden wheels to make the garden easily reconfigurable. Thanks to so many friends who came to the event!
Freezing temperatures and icy streets are keeping me indoors. But I am always amazed at how much still grows in Tokyo’s winter months. The most spectacular and surprising is this large citrus called “hassaku.”
For years I believed general comments about how the fruit is too sour to eat. Then I participated last year in Edoble’s hassaku marmalade-making. This tree can be seen everywhere in Tokyo, so it must be well suited. I like how it’s both decorative and edible!
Last month some friends and I participated in a volunteer tree-planting at Umi no Mori, a forest being created on a landfill island on the bay. I’ve written before how few Tokyo residents know about this ambitious project promoted during Tokyo’s failed second Olympic bid in 2007. Umi no Mori is meant to carry cool ocean breezes into Tokyo’s crowded urban core.
The tree planting was fun. We were in a group of twenty or so volunteers planting 500 trees in a 25 square meter section. There were about 25 varieties of trees, and we planted them very close together. I learned from one of the volunteer leaders that this dense planting encourages the trees to compete and grow faster than normal. One of the volunteers explained to me that this is part of Miyawaki Akira’s method for restoring forests on post-industrial greenfields.
Creating new waterfront parks and planting 500,000 trees is certainly a great thing for Tokyo. Still, I wonder if this project were less top-down and more open to the citizens what greater impacts this project could have:
1. By encouraging more people to participate in the creation of the park, it would be a great chance to explain to Tokyo citizens about native trees and habitats. It would be awesome to link planting new trees in the Tokyo Bay with also adding greenery in every Tokyo neighborhood, with active participation by city residents.
2. By opening even a small section now, more people can begin to experience the park and perhaps learn more about urban garbage. What precisely is being put into this landfill? How do the layers of garbage reflect our contemporary lifestyles? What can be done to reduce the amount of garbage that must be buried?
I think this park will eventually be fantastic. However, it’s a missed opportunity not to make its creation more participatory, more transparent, more public, more connected to the rest of the city, more educational, and a catalyst for public and collective rethinking of the urban environment and waste production.
Ambassador Cedeno of Costa Rica and his wife Tauli, and Edoble’s Jess Mantell and her friend Miho participated with me.
Many foreigners are surprised just how full of persimmons Tokyo is in the fall. Maybe you’d miss them if you stick to inside the newest malls and corporate developments. But it must be one of the most popular residential trees, and a true marker of fall.
This one is behind Shiho ceramic studio, and the funny story is that my in law teachers say that this year there aren’t so many fruit. Despite being an off year in a two year cycle, there’s actually still quite a lot of fruit. My mother in law is a great cook, and she uses these fall persimmons and also small sour plums in summer for food she shares with students and friends. She didn’t plant these trees but has gotten a lot of use from them in the past ten years.
Some persimmon trees produce fruit that’s best eaten raw, others dried, or cooked into jam or other sweets. For me it’s an acquired taste, but seeing these orange globes dangling across Tokyo is undeniably beautiful.
アムステルダムで住んでいる友だちは今月、日本で “tanemaki project”（種まきプロジェクト）をしています (@tanemaki2011) 。チューリップとパンケーキのワークショップを行います。寄付金付きを集めて、東北の仮設学校を飾ります。
My Amsterdam-based friends Hiyoko and Mark are in Japan this month developing their Tanemaki (planting) project (twitter @tanemaki2011). Hiyoko is a superb illustrator, and she’s organizing events to support decorating a temporary school in Tohoku. Last week they led a fun two-day tulip workshop at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, and this Saturday will be a pancake-making event with Mammoth School. It’s great to see them developing connections between Japan and the Netherlands, which have a special and long relation.
(Image: Hiyoko Imai).