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.
Before I moved to Tokyo four years ago, I grew cold weather palm trees in San Francisco. On a recent visit, it was great to see the trees getting larger. Above is a pritchardia minor from high altitude Hawaii. Below is the far more common queen palm, a native of South America that has been deemed invasive in Florida and Queensland.
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.
The rooftop garden of the new Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku mall, the one with the fun house, crazy mirror escalator entrance, it is much more lively than I expected. On a nice day, it draws a large crowd to relax and chat in the shade. I am impressed with the generously tall size of the trees, the irregular openings of the deck for plantings, and the many levels that provide seating and variation. The roof garden is partly visible from the sidewalk, unlike the older department store roof gardens, and forms part of the architecture of the building. Perhaps that’s why it’s more discoverable and popular.
I was admiring this fragrant tree with poofy balls of yellow and white flowers on bare branches. It’s in a shallow residential garden near Omotesando Koffee. Luckily, the owner came by as I was photographing, and explained that it’s called mitsumata, because of its three branch structure.
Later, I learned it’s called paperbush in English, and it’s known for producing high quality paper, once used for Japanese bank notes. The Kew Botanic Garden website says that it originates in China and has been cultivated in Japan and Korea since the 16th century. It’s also used in Chinese medicine.
In the photo below, you can see how the newer residential styles, with sleek concrete facades, close the house from the street, and very often include no plants at all. A sad contrast for garden lovers.
Winter provides a glimpse into this small Showa-era garden. Close to the house is a plum tree in bloom. Bordering the new development are evergreen plants including bamboo and the shuro palm.
When it snows, it seems as if Tokyo is a city of black and white. Recently I posted a photo of this plum tree at night. Just as the blossoms are peaking, thick gobs of snow magnify the tree’s shape.
Leap Day, 2012.
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!
This bare tree in a temple graveyard is very winter-like.
Ome Kaido is a large boulevard in my neighborhood that dates to Edo times when this area was largely fields. I like how the ginko trees provide a unifying element to a heterogenous streetscape of abandoned post-war buildings mixed with newer commercial, residential and even light industrial buildings from every decade since.
Directly across the street from this corner is a ten story office building. I noticed the roof-top sports facility years before I recognized the logo at the entrance that marks it as the headquarters of one of Japan’s leading adult content companies.
Thanks to Professor Suzuki Makoto at Nodai, I went on a bus tour of Adachi ward’s cherry trees. They are celebrating the ward’s role in the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry trees to Washington DC, where they are now a landmark landscape along the Potomac.
It was fun to see how many local people turned out for the tour and ward office symposium. Adachi-ku continues to cultivate many types of cherry trees, including this winter blooming one. Unfortunately, many of the open spaces for tree-planting are marginal spaces: below the high voltage power lines, and along the Arakawa River, where they are drowned out by multiple levels of elevated freeway.
Like most of Tokyo, it all depends in which direction you’re looking. Adachi-ku is proud also that it retains many views of Mount Fuji. Many of these views include the river and also smokestacks and factories.
These tall trees in the background provide a burst of life in a bleak cityscape of apartments, vending machines, and surface parking lots.
For a brief moment, I managed to clear a long path on my narrow balcony garden. There is only the slightest order within the chaos. I like the contrast made by the wood boardwalk, the red leaves and dahlia, and the white glaze on the pots I made at Shiho ceramic studio. Sometimes I get lost within this small garden.
On a recent wet night, Omotesando’s Zelkova leaves cast a golden glow on the sidewalk. It seems that fall leaves are late this year in Tokyo, but with a sudden drop in temperature the trees are now putting on a show. Like cherry blossom viewing, it’s an ephemeral sight. Check on the street trees this week!
I like how this small home is prepared for winter: the tree’s been hard pruned, the bushes rounded and shaped, and nothing out of place. The pruning looks severe, but it serves to bring more sunlight into the house for winter. I like the mix of western plants and Japanese traditional garden elements. And the hundreds of small pots lining the driveway. I have a feeling that they never park a car there.