Near our apartment is this older house with a deciduous tree that fills out in the summer. I love the bunches of light green pods it produces. Sadly there are not enough old houses or old trees in Tokyo. When you see this combination in Tokyo, it’s at once nostalgic and perhaps futuristic.
Ever resourceful Jason at Flora Grubb Gardens identified it by photo as a Firmiana simplex, Chinese parasol tree in English or aogiri (アオギリ) in Japanese. A quick visit to Wikipedia taught me that it’s an ornamental tree related to cacao. It’s within the same plant family as cotton, okra, hibiscus, and abutilon.
I love how the purple berries pop against the light green foliage. This hardy shrub is a classic fall marker, and a reference to the female novelist of the thousand year old Tale of Genji. Unlike my balcony specimen, which dropped its berries while still green, this one outside Shiho ceramic studio looks fantastic. It’s growing in a 5bai midori, the modular urban satoyama box.
I bought the first box two years ago, and the second last year. They really thrive on this north-facing sidewalk and draw attention to the studio and store. If you click on Shiho’s website, you can see on the home page how small the first one was. It just needs lots of water, and very occasional pruning. There are so many local species that each season has something special and evocative of the Japanese landscape.