Long allée of cherry trees in Tatsumi are especially beautiful at night

辰巳の桜の散歩道は、夜が特別にすてきです。高速道路を作ったときに、公園の木を植えたのだと思います。今この林は40年以上に見えます。

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.

Palm trees in San Francisco, rare and common

東京に引っ越しする前に、サンフラシスコで耐寒性のあるヤシを育てていました。サンフランシスコは一年中寒いので、育つヤシと育たないヤシがあります。最近、昔の庭を訪れたとき、木が大きくなっていたので、うれしかったです。

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.

Yamamomo tree near Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

ヤマモモというフルーツの味はどんなでしょうか。このきれいな実のなる木はよく公園と道路で育っています。

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.

Roof top garden at new Omotesando Tokyu mall is much livelier than I expected

新しい屋上の庭はいいデザインで、大きい木があって、いい気持ちです。もうたくさんの人がこの場所を見つけたようです。表参道の東急モールです。

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.

Fragrant paperbush (mitsumata) in Omotesando back street

表参道 で、ミツマタという木をはじめて見ました。裸の枝に、香り高い花がたくさん咲いていました。木の持ち主が説明してくれました。五百年前に中国から輸入されて、ミツマタは、和紙を作るために使用されます。

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.

Small Showa garden visible from the lane. Plum blossoms, shuro palm, and bamboo.

昭和時代の庭に、梅が咲いています。落葉生の木も常緑のシュロと竹もあります。西東京のこんな自宅の庭が減っています。

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.

Thick gobs of snow pile up on plum blossoms

雪が降っているときは、東京は白黒映画みたいです。最近、この梅の木の夜の写真を載せました。先週の雪が木のかたちを大きく見せました。うるう年の日、2012年。

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.

Winter citrus brightens cold days in Tokyo

東京に来たとき、柑橘類の木を見て驚きました。冬に果物が熟成しますが、寒すぎるのではないかと思いました。最初、このハッサクは食べれないと東京の人はみんな言いました。去年カナダ人の友だちが、閉鎖された公立学校の庭でハッサクを収穫して、商店街の人たちと一緒にマーマレードを作りました。装飾にも食用にもなります。

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!

Ginkos connect an old street with decades of layers

青梅街道は江戸時代からある道で、昔ここに農園がありました。今はイチョウの木がたくさんの種類の建物をつないでいます。廃墟化した戦後の建物や商業用の建物や住宅やさらには軽工業のビルがあります。

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.

Winter cherry trees in Adachi-ku

農大の鈴木誠先生のおかげで、足立区の桜の木のバスツアーに参加させてもらいました。今年は東京がワシントンにあげた桜の百年記念です。今では、ポトマックという川の桜は有名な風景になりました。寒い日なのに、たくさんの人がツアーに参加しました。足立区はたくさんの種類の桜を育ています。冬に咲いているの木もあります。残念なことに、桜を植えた場所は高い電線や高架高速道路の下です。

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.

Trees add life to bleak cityscape

後ろにあるこの高い木には、はじけるような命を感じます。ところが、前にある駐車場や自動販売機やマンションは暗いですね。

These tall trees in the background provide a burst of life in a bleak cityscape of apartments, vending machines, and surface parking lots.

Sometimes I get lost within the small balcony garden

ベランダの庭で、狭い道が混乱のなかの秩序を作ります。木の床や赤い葉やダリアや白い釉薬が対照しています。時々この小さな庭のなかで迷います。

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.

Full fall folliage on Omotesando

表参道で、ケヤキの紅葉が金色にきらきらしています。今年は紅葉がちょっと遅いです。最近、気温が下がって、今がピークです。もうすぐ終わります。今週、ケヤキやモモジやイチョウの紅葉を見てください。

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!

Tidy garden is pruned and ready for winter

冬のために、小さな庭の準備ができました。木を短く剪定したので、日光が家に入ってこれます。何百も植木鉢があるから、駐車場を使わないそうです。

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.