Mixing colors, shapes and origins on Tokyo balcony



This balcony vignette includes contrasting colors and shapes with plants from France, Australia, Pilipinas, and Tokyo (lavender, formium, banana, and kanamemochi).

Verdant summer green in Yoyogi Park



I love biking through Yoyogi Park on my way around the city. In summer, there are many shades of green and also cool shade.

Biking fast through asphalt and concrete corridors



For moving quickly through the city, nothing is faster than using a bike on the main boulevards. This intersection, in front of Opera City, is particularly ugly. I stick to the wide sidewalk on Yamate Dori.

Comic artist Shu Kuge creates new Tokyo – San Francisco map for Social Models


もう紹介したかもしれないのですが、Shu Kugeという漫画家がこの地図を描いてくれました。13年前、初めて作ったビジネスのホームページにも素敵な地図とスタッフの似顔絵を描いてくれました。今回も地図を描いてもらって嬉しいです。「ソーシャル・モデルズ」は東京とサンフランシスコをつなぐデザイン・リサーチ会社です。

Maybe you have seen this already? Comic artist Shu Kuge made this map showing how the ocean connects Tokyo and San Francisco. For my first business website thirteen years ago, Shu drew a very memorable office map and staff avatars. I am lucky that he has created something new for Social Models, my new design research studio that is co-located in these two great port cities.

Launching Social Models, a design research studio in Tokyo & San Francisco




Tokyo Green Spaceと平行して、私が関わっている仕事を紹介させてください。デザイン人類学者として、コンサルティングをしています。会社名は、SOCIAL MODELS「ソーシャル・モデルズ」。クライアントの多くが企業・大学・芸術機関です。最新のホームページを立ち上げました。東京とヨーロッパで活躍するデザイナー、ルイス・メンドにデザインしてもらいました。ホームページには、リサーチの視点が写真と一緒に紹介されています。是非、寄ってください!

As many of you know, my “day job” is as a design anthropologist working with corporations, universities, and arts organizations. Recently, I re-formed my thirteen year consulting company as Social Models. Thanks to the amazing designer, Tokyo resident Luis Mendo, the new site’s images combine my love of photography and offbeat urban stories to show how design research rests on close observation and makes new opportunities visible.  I can’t thank Luis enough for his skills at helping me communicate my passion for research and design in Tokyo and San Francisco.


This San Francisco sidewalk garden reminds me of Tokyo

The simplicity of a garden made of pots, the tiered stand for packing more plants in a small space, and the generosity of the gardener remind me of Tokyo.

Ducks keep city dwellers company at ponds and rivers


Ducks are still a common sight in Tokyo, wherever there’s clean water. Don’t they get cold in winter? Also in Shinjuku Gyoen.

Tokyo street gardeners are rule breakers

東京の路地に小さな庭のスペースを作る方は、一般のルールに従わないところが素敵です。このブログの写真を使って、友達のショウさんがBell Street Filmsと一緒に30秒のビデオを作ってくれました。去年、ショウさんはベランダの庭にデザイン人類学校と東京グリーンスペースについてビデオを作りました。

This 30 second clip features my photographs of flowerpot gardens and stories about their makers, who explain to me how they break the law in order to create safer streets. Last year, my friend Sho’s Bell Street Films made a short video about Tokyo Green Space and design anthropology, shot mostly in my balcony garden.

A city view without people

Often I bike under this maze of freeways, and sometimes I look up and see the Opera City tower rising 50 floors above. A city view without people and plants seems sad to me.

Seeing Tokyo through netting and scaffolding


Living in a construction site has been strange. There’s less light, there are no plants outside, and there’s a netting between us and the city.

Scaffolding covers our apartment building. It feels as if I am living behind a theater stage.



This is how the balcony and former view looked when I returned to Tokyo. The extremely tidy screen, modified for a typhoon in fall, and the constant stream of workers make me feel that I am living on a stage set.

I received the last morning glory flower of the year, by air mail



I have been in San Francisco the past two months for work, so it was a great pleasure to receive this letter from home. Inside is the very last balcony morning glory flower of this year. I love that the stamps are morning glory and butterfly. “Open it slowly.”


Seeing Mount Fuji reminds me that I am in Tokyo


I am always delighted to see Mount Fuji from our balcony. In the morning, it glistens with snow, and at  sunset the backlighting and colors are extraordinary. Seeing Mount Fuji reminds me that, yes, I am in Tokyo.