Biking through Yoyogi Park you never know what you’ll run into. One weekend, Shibuya Camp appeared with gorgeous tents and folk music. This truck brings a Buenos Aires Bar to Tokyo in fall. Based on the men’s fall outfits, you might think you’re at the start of a mountain trail in South America.
Recently I am consulting for one of Japan’s largest real estate companies seeking to attract residents to a waterfront area that many might not have considered before. What makes an apartment or a neighborhood desirable? What architectural and landscape choices are most important? What are the trends today and in the future that drive consumer choice?
As an English speaker in Tokyo, I am also always drawn to the selective English language marketing, often an odd English name for the property. This building advertised in the Sendagaya JR station has a name that has a certain logic, but which also completely fails as an English language name.
Yes, Gro-bel is a shortened form of “Grow Best Life Stage.” It’s also the Japanese pronunciation of the word “global.” What was meant as optimistic, modern and international, instead comes off as bizarre, stilted, and heavy handed. In this context, using English is more decorative than functional or expressive.
This is urban archeology, with past and current technologies made visible. A large building in Shinjuku is torn down, exposing the back side of the neighboring buildings. It’s amazing how haphazard and tenuous the building systems are. There are many wires that seem left-over from earlier times. Also amazing is how the air conditioner below has been squeezed into the crawl space!
Please join @a_small_lab and me for a tanuki adventure next Tuesday, July 9, noon to 1 pm, at Shibaura House. Details below. Many thanks to Shibaura House for their support.
SHIBAURA HOUSEに来て、江戸時代から有名なタヌキさんに会いませんか？ 2人の外国人が、タヌキさんをまた東京に呼び戻したいと考えています。東京メトロに乗ってタヌキが友達を作る企画（http://wp.me/piwM0-23e）は、ロンドンのテクノロジー関係の学会で承認されました。スマートフォンがなくても、タヌキさんは友達を作ることが上手です。
Please come to Shibaura House to meet the famous tanuki from Edo. Two foreigners want to welcome shape-shifting tanuki back to Tokyo. Their photo story about Making Friends with Tanuki in the Tokyo Metro was selected by a London technology conference for its unusual real-time interaction. How come, even without a smartphone, tanuki is so good at making friends? Why do we need animals in cities? What is the importance of wild and unexpected things in our lives? Please bring an open mind and your own bento. Let’s go on an adventure.
I’ve posted the photographs and slides from my recent talk at Shibaura House‘s Community Herb Garden event. My purpose was to encourage city residents to plant herbs because they are easy to grow and have many uses (culinary, cocktails, tea, scent, butterfly attractors).
Recently, there have been several reports that Mount Fuji may erupt and cause an earthquake, or vice versa. What I love about this giant volcano is its utterly domestic and urban nature. Today’s urban views, completely with laundry drying, are an extension of hundreds of years of Edo visual representation.
Hamarikyu is an elaborate garden between the office towers of Shiodome and the harbor full of warehouses, garbage incinerators, and the massive immigration office with no cellphone coverage. Inside the garden, you can learn how the Emperor created a special landscape to facilitate duck hunting that used decoy ducks, falcons, and nets. But on the edges of the garden, you can see the messy metropolis with its relentless accumulation of transportation, commerce, and recently new luxury residential development. I like how on the city side, the stone-lined canal has been preserved, and on the harbor side, an older looking flood gate still regulates the garden’s pond.
On a recent trip to New York City, I took my film camera to some iconic parks. Above is the reservoir in Central Park, a place for exercise, leisure, and path between Upper East Side and Upper West Side.
Below is the High Line, a more recent park created from a dis-used elevated train line west of Chelsea. I love how in both environments, you can enjoy nature and feel connected to an urban landscape.
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.
Recently I picked up strawberries from the home center, full of pretty white flowers. They were less than $2 each. I think it’s very interesting that they’re called “Tokyo strawberries.” In this urban country, it makes sense to develop and target plants, even vegetables, to city growers.
The label also boasts, “Pure Berry 2” with a registered trademark. But the biggest promise is strawberries in all four seasons. I am looking forward to my first balcony strawberry!
In the past five years, Seoul has gone from one of East Asia’s ugliest mega-cities to one of its most livable and attractive. The transformation has been rapid. While I think Tokyo is often stunted by its autocratic government and urban planning, Seoul shows that East Asian cities can be dynamic and forward-looking.
On a visit last summer, I toured new city parks (the Cheonggyecheon river and Seonyudo island), visited art galleries, experienced the mix of old and cutting edge architecture, and met meta-designers, Seoul’s city brand manager, and a national environmental researcher.