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.
Over a lunch of French crepes and organic cider, I had the pleasure of meeting John Moore. John is the former president of Patagonia Japan, a permaculture teacher, and entrepreneur involved with retailing and advertising agencies, corporate foundations, the design school Ikejiri, and social businesses. He will also be teaching a bilingual class at Freedom University on indoor vegetable gardening and natural soil creation.
John will be releasing a book and website soon about seeds and what to plant when for urban gardeners. In promoting the practice of growing your own food, he is adamant about keeping his distance from hippie aesthetics and connecting organic living with modern life today.
Our conversation ranged around so many topics: rural town planting fruit trees along roads for free food; a mountain bike resort for rural town revitalization; unused facilities and opportunities in the Japanese countryside; a program for kids with cancer to visit Okinawa; organic wasabi farming; a special machine to make “revitalized water” based on wasabi farming; indoor edibles in cites; kids and gardening; a farmer’s market at United Nations University in Tokyo; borage, elder berry, camfry and yarrow as compost accelerants; turning a small town’s landscaping waste, including branches and grass clippings, into compost and thus reducing the town’s cost of hauling and disposal; the role of animals, particularly rabbits & chickens, in soil improvements by turning leaf waste into fertilizer; use of urine, including human, in soil improvement; Japan’s need to create organic farming standards; lack of awareness of free range, antibiotic and hormone free meat and eggs in Japan; and connecting city dwellers with farming.
I hope we can find urban food and other projects to work on together.
What do you think of animals as garden ornaments? It seems that the desire to populate urban areas with animals goes hand-in-hand with cultivating plants. Does it add to urban life or detract?
A sustainability entrepreneur friend recently told me how much he dislikes the “clutter” and bad taste of old ladies using styrofoam planters for street pots. I imagine he would take a similarly dim view of animal ornaments.
There is a sometimes ambiguous line between trash and art, the living and the never animate. I wonder if the garden animals are dissimilar from the public space plants: a way to take ownership of the street, to make public space personal, “alive,” and magical. They can also be chaotic or unattractive.
Below is a statue of “tanoki,” a popular if somewhat obscene racoon figure of myth. I like how he is accompanied by a duck, elephant, dog, elf, two smaller tanokis, and a white picket fence.