Leaf by leaf, the balcony green curtain fills in

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梅雨のあいだに、ベランダのグリーンカーテンがどんどん濃くなっています。今、つる植物が8種類あります。バナナの木も、都市と家のあいだに緑の壁を作ってくれています。

In a month of humidity and heat, this year’s green curtain is gradually filling in. There are now eight vines, and the banana tree providing a green wall between home and city.

 

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My interview about a new waterfront high-rise is now online and in many free real estate magazines distributed around Tokyo’s stations

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最近、芝浦についての私のインタビューが出ました。この三井不動産のプロジェクトは、住宅と同時に公共の公園も作り、新い住人と今住んでいる住人とのコミュニティーを作ろうとしています。画期的な計画だと思います。緑と水は人をつなげられます。

In August, I began working with Mitsui Real Estate, Recruit, and a small NGO to introduce a new luxury high-rise residential tower in Shibaura, a less known waterfront area between Shinagawa and Hamamatsucho. It’s near where the base of Rainbow Bridge is located.

In this online interview (in Japanese) and in real estate brochures distributed around Tokyo, I relate my experience working in the neighborhood at Shibaura House, where I led gardening and fieldwork workshops for locals and international visitors, adults and small children.

The new tower, which is just now breaking ground, contributes to the restoration of Edo-era canals by creating a public waterfront park. This park contributes to the developer’s goal of creating a resilient community that includes new and existing residents. Providing greater access to the waterfront also restores a vital part of Tokyo’s history that was neglected in the 20th century.

It’s a small jungle in summer on my Tokyo balcony garden

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夏はベランダの植物がみんな大きくなります。緑の葉が多いので、ジャングルがみたいです。

In summer, lush foliage dominates my balcony garden. The morning glory curtain continues to bloom facing the sun, but inside there’s a cacophony of leaf shape and color tone, including olive, fig, and camellia. With so much new growth, you can hardly see the narrow wood path.

The top two photos face west and east. The lowest photo also faces east, and shows the layering of shoulder high and knee high plants. The grass plant in the white ceramic has some red leaves, which make a dynamic accent to the many shades of green.

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Tokyo waterfront infrastructure at Tatsumi: the beautiful and the ugly

東京湾のあたりは50年前に、高速道路と公園のようなインフラをたくさん作りました。全く使われていない不毛の空間ときれいな場所が同時に存在しています。雑草と偶然にできた緑の空間が生き残ります。

I often show images of the long cherry tree path that leads from Tatsumi’s subway to the municipal swimming pool. The 10 minute walk mixes all that’s both beautiful and dirty about 1960s infrastructure projects. There’s the amazing public sports facility, a now mature park with tall trees bordering the elevated freeway, and an odd mix of new construction, prior buildings, and informal green spaces that benefit from a lack of attention.

Balloon vine is a fun summer climber

経堂駅から農大に行く途中で、面白い庭がある家をいつも観察します。去年は色々なアサガオが育っていました。今は、背の高いフウセンカズラがたくさんの緑とオレンジ色の実を見せてくれています。私たちのベランダにもこの夏のつる草があります。

On the long walk from Kyodo station to Nodai (Tokyo University of Agriculture), there’s a house and large garden where the residents are always gardening. This year they created a huge, two meter high trellis of fusenkazura (フウセンカズラ). The name is literally balloon kudzu, and despite looking delicate, it’s very hardy. The vine produces lots of white flowers, followed by a multitude of green balls that then turn orange. This year, I’m growing two specimens on our balcony.

Using a bush to hide the balcony washing machine

カナメモチという植物を知っていますか。きれいな赤色と緑の葉の木で、ブラインドの代わりになります。東京でよく使われます。今、ベランダの洗濯機を隠したいです。

This red and green leafed bush, called kanamemochi (カナメモチ), is one of the most common hedges in Tokyo. I have a single plant, which used to be in front of the air conditioner. Now that we’re using the AC and blasting hot air into the balcony, I’ve had to move all the plants that used to be in front of it. I just potted it up, so hopefully it will become a thicker and better screen.

Morning glory in black and white

最近買った中古のフィルムカメラで、黒白フィルムを使いました。アサガオの濃い青色の花も緑の葉も強いですが、カラーのフィルムより詳しく形が見えます。蟻も見えます。

With my new film camera, a 10 year old model, I tried out a roll of black and white film. I like how the color is taken away from the deep blue flower and dark green leaves of this morning glory. Instead you can see the form more carefully. I like how you can even see some of the many ants that have inhabited the balcony garden and green curtain.

Deep red vine in winter adds charm to concrete residence in Harajuku

冬の深い赤色のつるはコンクリートの住宅を魅力的にします。去年の写真とくらべると、緑のつるは感じが違います。

This Harajuku residential buidling is bordered by tall bamboo and covered in a thick vine. I posted a photo of this building last summer shaded in dense green foliage. Now it’s turned red in early winter, and the contrast is very pleasing.

Murasaki shikibu is a hardy bush that symbolizes fall

紫式部の果実がきれいです。まだ緑色だけど、もうすぐ紫色になります。果実は秋のしるしです。

There is something very pleasing about the small berries on Murasaki shikibu, named after the author and heroine of the famous 11 century novel The Tale of the Genji. Here they are still green, but soon they’ll turn purple.

Fun skateboarding video of Tokyo guerrilla gardening

ゲリラ・ガーデニングのビデオは楽しいです。

This fun video is from Plants+ Japan, via @hiyokoimai.

Small green spots in Nihonbashi

Small green spaces in Nihonbashi include the Kabuto shrine and anonymous wall gardens.

日本橋の小さな緑。兜神社と名前の知らない庭です。とてもいいですよ。

In addition to a few historic corporate and government landscapes, Nihonbashi also has small shrines and anonymous micro-gardens. Canada’s Discovery History program filmed me talking about these locations. By accident, I stumbled upon a small Shinto shrine called Kabuto. It stands between a building covered in scaffolding and multiple elevated freeways just east of Edobashi bridge. It’s also across the street from the Bubble-era Tokyo Stock Exchange. Just behind it is the river.

Kabuto means samurai helmet. The shrine lends its name to the surrounding area. At the entrance are simple wood doors with the kanji for “kabuto” etched. The shrine seems very well maintained, and I wonder if those responsible for the shrine are the current business neighbors or descendants of generations of shrine keepers. I wonder, too, if the shrine used to be larger and better connected to the river. Now it seems almost swallowed up by the man-made environment on three side and from above.

It’s interesting that while the Tokyo Station area is full of new towers and multinational corporations, there are also still some small alleys and low buildings that provide a glimpse of the past. I found this curious sidewalk garden outside a five-story building that houses a reflexology clinic, a ramen shop, accountants, and probably a residence on top.

Here’s the list of tenants and the old entrance door. The garden is simple, well-cared for, and a cheerful sight in a densely packed area.

CNN on Tokyo’s green streets and vertical gardens

CNNのインタビューです。みんなが小さな緑をたくさん作って、東京生活を楽しくしています。路地と区役所のイノベーションについて話しました。@KyungLahCNN さん、 ありがとうございます。

CNN broadcast their interview with me about how neighborhood gardens make Tokyo life so enjoyable. Focus on small green streets & local government innovations. Thanks @KyungLahCNN

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