Tokyo Balcony Garden Press


Shu Kuge has shifted his art from comics to wood block prints, using the name Tokyo Balcony Garden Press. I love that the name references our Tokyo home. Above are some of the wood blocks he made this winter in Tokyo. Looking forward to spending the rest of spring and summer in Japan together.

In addition to his art work, Shu has also helped my consulting company, Social Models, with comics, personas, and mascots for corporate clients including Hitachi Design Division and Facebook. It’s been an amazing collaboration, with Shu’s comics going viral in my clients’ offices.


Shu Kuge draws our Tokyo balcony garden, now online and for sale in print

kugecomics_balcony_excerpt My husband Shu Kuge‘s 8 page comic about our Tokyo balcony just got published. I am thrilled that our tiny garden measuring 1 by 5 meters, often featured in this blog, inspired Shu’s story about life in Tokyo today.  Shu’s creativity and perspective always amaze me. The inimitable drawer Luis Mendo invited Shu to participate in a special issue of architecture magazine MAS Context devoted to Tokyo and illustrators. It was Luis who suggested using our balcony as the focus of Shu’s story.

You can see the whole comic online. www.mascontext.com/issues/24-tokyo-winter-14/shu-kuge/

Print copies can be found at Chicago Design Museum in Chicago, IL | www.chidm.com, and Avril 50 in Philadelphia, PA | www.avril50.com, and soon online at www.mascontext.com/purchase/

If you stick your head over the balcony rail, and look down, . . .



The garden grows away from the apartment and to the light. One way to enjoy it is by looking over the rail. It looks like  a conventional garden border, this one of rose and oak, but in an unfamiliar position.

Okinawa morning glory became dominant element of summer balcony garden



When it was blooming prolifically, the Okinawa morning glory became an exterior screen between the apartment and the city outside. The shades of violet, red and blue are stunning.

What makes a home desirable? Who wants to Grow Best Life Stage?



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.

Adorable blue creature guards apartment from mosquitos



After a recent mosquito outbreak, we now have these adorable blue creatures providing a security barrier between us and outdoor pests. I find the creature’s alert expression particularly comforting. Those eyelashes are always wide open.


Bare cherry tree casts a decorative shadow on apartment building


I love the shadow of this cherry tree that surrounds a ground floor apartment window.

A solitary thrill to leave the apartment in fresh snow


I am a bit of a shut-in during winter, but there’s something exciting about leaving the apartment lobby and entering fresh snow. It’s a solitary thrill.

Thick green curtain covers balcony in summer


It must feel like a jungle in this Shinjuku Gyoen-mae apartment balcony. The sheer coverage, in height and width, is impressive. Below is what the balcony looks like in context.