I am a huge fan of Tokyo’s summer festivals. Sacred and community-based, these festivals involve shrine carrying, chanting, grunting, drums, flutes, and bells, ritual clothing, and close proximity between neighbors.
Growing rice in buckets on the sidewalk isn’t likely to put any rice farmers out of business. Still, it’s a lovely sight in Tokyo during the summer, and brings a country feeling into the hard-surfaced city.
I found this lane when biking home from Koenji. I felt like I was in a small town, many decades ago.
I’ve noticed recently more and more real estate advertising at construction sites and at recently completed buildings that show images of forests or famous urban landscapes that are nowhere near the location. A new luxury development rising at Jingumae 3 chome #37, the site of the former Harajuku Danchi, shows a photo of the ginko trees turning yellow on Icho Namaiki (いちょう並木).
Above is Nishi Shinjuku, which has several new office towers and new apartments on Ome Kaido, towards Nakano Sakaue. Following regulations, these buildings have planted street trees. But it is comical to see the image of a path meandering through a forest that’s half way up the new apartment building.
On the one hand, it’s good to see city people still dream of forests. On the other hand, these wealthy developers and the City of Tokyo regulators could increase the value of their properties by actually turning this marketing image into a reality.
What could an urban forest look like at this intersection?
I have found this wonderful short-cut between Yoyogi and Omotesando on bike. It passes a lot of houses with gardens. On my way to a meeting, I had a nice long chat with a small office owner who was tending a beautiful clematis vine. And then I saw this house with irises outside. If you ignore that you are in the center of Tokyo, it seems like a simple country house, no?
Nodai’s Garden Design Lab, part of the Landscape Architecture Science Department, invited me to their student workshop and welcome party last week. To help everyone get to know each other, students organized a workshop on the differences between country and city (田舎と都市, inaka and toshi).
It was fun to participate. The structure was very open-ended and interesting. In tables of about 8 people each, we brainstormed, using post-it notes, and then grouping them into categories. Actually, this framework reminded me of corporate workshops I have attended and organized.
Our group finished by allowing students to situate themselves on a country-city continuum. The nerdy guy who lives in Akihabara and I were the super-city participants, and I was struck that even our small group had a wide range of self-identification including super-country.
Students come from a variety of places, and more than a few seem to be children of garden business families. There were several graduate students over 40, three from China, one from Brazil, and an associate who also comes from Maryland by way of Brown University and Barcelona.
The workshop was followed by eating and drinking, first in the Lab, and then at an izakaya across the street. Suzuki sensei gallantly paid the large tab. I felt very welcomed and very fortunate to participate in this dynamic environment.