banana

Echinacea, native to eastern and central North America, does fine in a flowerpot on sunny Tokyo balcony

echinacea_balcony

国連大学の前のファーマーズマーケットで、お店を出しているShokubutsu Freakの片山陽介さんから買ったエキナセアという植物は、北米からきました。東京の晴れたベランダにもきれい。この狭いベランダには、日本のアサガオや熱帯のバナナの木やオーリブの木があります。何でも試してみます。

I bought this flower from my friend Katayama Yosuke of Shokubutsu Freak at the UNU weekend farmers market. Its North American provenance mixes nicely with Japanese morning glory, tropical bananas, and an olive tree.

 

 

Leaf by leaf, the balcony green curtain fills in

green_curtain_rainy_season

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.

 

balcony_rainy_season

Pushing a new leaf, can this banana bring monkeys up to our tenth floor balcony?

banana_balcony_new_leaf

バナナの新しい葉が出てきています。バナナができれば、10階のベランダに猿が来るかもしれません。

My hopes are high.

My smallest fruit tree

persimmon_bonsai_balcony

東京の小さなベランダで、色々なフルーツの木を育てています。イチジクやバナナやオリーブがあります。一番ちっちゃなのは盆栽の柿の木です。去年もこの盆栽の柿の写真を載せました

On my Tokyo balcony, I am growing fig, olive, banana, and this persimmon bonsai. It’s my smallest. I took photos of it last year at the same time.

Elegant ladies dancing on the street at Shinto festival in Shiba

お祭りのときに、素敵な着物を着たおばあさんが、路上で踊っています。友だちのバスと、9月の芝のお祭りに行きました。

On a wide boulevard normally devoted to multi-lane auto traffic, nothing could be more beautiful than the site of elegant ladies in matching kimonos and hats dancing in synchronized movements. The summer and fall Shinto festivals transform business Tokyo into a series of village parties evoking an agrarian culture rarely sensed inside the megalopolis.

Below are photos from the Shiba matsuri. The sub-group near my friend Bas’ home displayed photos from the 1945 festival, just a month after the end of the war in which the entire neighborhood and much of Tokyo was burnt to the ground. The last photo shows a man who is both telling stories and selling bananas, a continuation of an Edo-era festival character.

In the photos you can see how on a special holiday, the streets, overpasses, convenience stores, and other mundane urban spaces are transformed into a very social and well dressed public environment.

Summer makes me want to jump in cold river

蒸し暑い天気のときに一番涼しいところは、冷たい川の中です。@a_small_lab と @jessmantell と御嶽に行きました。東京にあんな自然がまだあります。実がついたバナナを見て、驚きました。

In summer’s heat and humidity, the best place to be is in a cold river. Recently I met up with @a_small_lab and @jessmantell at the Tama river up in the foothills of western Tokyo. At Mitake, you can feel that you are in the mountains while being still in the city. It’s about an hour and a half by train from central Tokyo, and the water is cold!

I was very surprised to see bananas growing by the river. The fruit is now forming.

Fall omatsuri in my neighborhood

The lanterns announce that the omatsuri festival will be happening Using simple plumbers’ fixtures and scaffolding, flexible and removable frames for lighted paper lanterns are erected all over the city.

I find omatsuri incredibly charming: a public street festival evoking rice farming and harvests, organized in Tokyo around tiny local shrines, work organizations, and local associations. A friend told me that in his town, the whole town celebrates together. But in the large megalopolis of Tokyo, the intensely local nature of each celebration is very personal and social.

Members of my apartment building are some of the main leaders of our local shrine’s festivities, which includes children’s and adults’ parading through the streets with portable shrines, flute, drum and bell music, (Japanese) lion dancing, traditional clothes including hapi (cotton jackets), and lots of public drinking.

At the shrine, one of my neighbors offered me a free shaved ice. I hesitated to accept other offers of food or drink because I did not want to be carrying the portable shrine; I know from experience that this is best left to younger and drunker participants.

Just in the other direction, on the same weekend, a small park gets transformed into a space for dozens to do “bon” dancing around a raised platform. Mostly seniors, they dance to various traditional and regional songs, while wearing yukatas. Children and even dogs come wearing this summer kimono. Unlike the local shrine, this small park has an area for more commercial “omatsuri” games and foods, including delicious mini-cakes, the ever present chocolate banana on a stick, yakisoba, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and more shaved ice.

I experimented this time with black-and-white photos that seem to make the event more timeless and nostalgic. It’s funny to see something very contemporary, like a child taking a cellphone photo of her chocolate banana, using this backward-seeming technology and juxtaposed with dances and music that may be centuries old. There’s something timeless about cast iron pans used over a gas grill to make the small cakes sold 12 or 40 to a bag.

I feel a certain surge of excitement when the portable shrines enter the large boulevard or fill the small streets radiating out from it. The shrine is very heavy, and there’s a definite camaraderie formed by sharing this load.

I’ll end the post with a short video of the dancing. The drumming and bells are live, and the other music and voice from an old CD player and simple amplifier sound system.