boat

Wide canal packed with with boats, bridges, elevated highways, and a trace of pre-industrial Edo

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この運河の景色は素敵ですね。戦後の建築の歴史が見えます。幅が広い運河は産業革命前の江戸時代を呼び起こします。自然な感じがします。都市は有機体だと思い出させてくれます。大きい都市はいつも少しずつが変わっていきます。芝浦一丁目で。

I love this canal view, the layers of visible history in buildings, and the wide water that evokes pre-industrial Edo life. Even the regrettable additions, like the elevated freeways, show how Tokyo constantly evolves not through great design but by continual addition to what was already there.

There is so much transportation infrastructure on this wide canal in Shibaura Ichome. I also love how the small post-war house at the corner has been built up over the years with additions, and then surrounded by a taller modernist office and more recent, larger buildings that are more about function than form. There’s something very calming about seeing this large expanse of water, and a view of how Tokyo became layered with new structures over time.

Elaborate send-off ceremony on ferry’s departure

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小笠原から船が出るときに、儀式があります。陸上では、はっぴを着ている人が太鼓を演奏します。港では、小さな船がたくさんついてきて、さよならのあいさつとして、皆一緒に海に飛び込みます。

When leaving Ogasawara, there is an elaborate send-off. Men, women and children in Shinto happi jackets pound drums and ask for a safe voyage. A flotilla, including kayaks, fishing and diving boats, follows the ship through the harbor. And as the boat nears the edge of the open sea, in a scene that all the regulars seem familiar with, people in the small boats dive and jump into the sea in showy unison.

Truly, this is the most jolly transit send-off I could imagine.

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Matching camera and photographer camo raincoats

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大きいカメラとカメラマンは同じカモフラージュのレインコートを着ています。

These guys were prepared for cold weather, and spent hours monitoring the sea for birds, dolphins, and whales.

“Snack” cafe onboard evokes the comforts of land

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おがさわら丸にも、スナックがあります。

Meal times are very limited onboard in the main cafeteria, but the “snack” stays open longer hours. I love the homey pink polka dot curtain.

Rough seas with no land in sight

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外洋にいることは、不思議な気持ちです。人によって、船の旅はきびしそうです。
It’s a strange feeling to be in the open sea. In my opinion, only 4 or 5 hours were truly difficult out of the 50 hour round trip voyage. Others have different experiences, even on the same boat.

Escape by boat to nature sanctuary on the very far side of Tokyo

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最近、東京から離れることを考えていました。3月に、小笠原の父島に旅行しました。交通は船だけで、25時間かかります。小笠原丸のデザインが好きです。逞しくて、効率的で、簡素です。

April 1 is the start of the business and school years in Japan. Recently my thoughts have turned to escaping the city, which I recently accomplished. What better than a long sea voyage to the remote island of Chichijima? Sub-tropical and isolated from continental evolution, Chichijima is part of the Ogasawara islands one thousand kilometers south of Tokyo. Administratively, they are part of Tokyo. Yet a far side of Tokyo removed from ordinary urban life.

Of the two options, we chose the 25 hour ferry boat from Hamamatsucho over the mega-cruise ship out of Yokohama. Given the amount of time in transit, the boat itself is a major element of visiting the islands. This large ship called Ogasawara Maru carries up to a thousand people as well as all supplies, cars, and even livestock for the few thousand inhabitants of this island group.

The design evokes Japanese efficiency and optimism of the 1980s, sturdy, reliable, with few frills and no luxuries. I love the dolphin artwork, and brass rails. Unfortunately, because of the weather and conditions, the captain’s tour was canceled on both directions.

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Found some sun-lit boats in Shiba river, under the elevated freeway

首都高速道路の下に、素敵な船が浮いています。まだ川を使う人たちがいて、うれしかったです。

Just a few hundred meters down river from an ugly stretch of buried Shiba river, I found these beautiful boats shining beneath the freeway. It’s lovely to see these boats and to know that the river is still being used by some people.

Musicians preforming at festival on a wooden boat

芝お祭りに、演奏家たちが、木材の船で演奏します。マクドの前、路上で。

I love how these Shiba festival musicians are performing in a wooden boat. The musician closest to me put on the mask when he saw me reach for my camera. I love that there’s a boat in the street in front of McDonalds.

Boat and biking on Oshima with Paper Sky

伊豆の大島は東京の品川区だと知っていますか。浜松町から船で8時間かかりました。Paper Sky Bicycle Club のツール・ド・オオシマはとても楽しかったです。黒溶岩の砂漠での日の出も優しい自転車おたくたちもローカル料理もすばらしかった。Paper Sky は素敵な雑誌で、ニーハイメディアという出版社は最近自転車、山のハイキング、料理本のグループを打ち上げました。実際に人を集めるのはすごいと思います。

DId you know that Oshima island, off the coast of Izu, is part of Shinagawa ward? From the pier near Hamamatsucho, it’s an eight hour overnight ride on a slow and rather large boat. I recently went with Paper Sky’s Bicycle Club.

Highlights included watching the sun rise at black lava rock “desert” atop the volcano, fun and fashionable cyclists in their twenties, thirties, and forties, the slow over-night boat ride, two onsens, a small port made from a volcanic crater. We saw the end of the camellia season, the blooming of Oshima cherry trees, and ate ashitaba leaf vegetable. Dai dai cocktails cmobined local citrus with booze.

I am now even more impressed with Paper Sky, which is a travel magazine and also the hub of mountain climbing, food, book, and bicycle clubs. My fellow travelers were an interesting mix of bicycle sellers, magazine editors, serious and hobby cyclists, photographers, and creative types. I was surprised that the rental bikes were all Bruno bikes, which have small tires, great colors, and are excellent for city biking and mid-range touring.

With its real world events and groups, Paper Sky’s publisher, Knee High Media, is clearly thinking about a new type of publishing beyond paper, the web, and smart phones.

Crow melon and Imperial Palace pruning

 

Walking around the Imperial Palace recently, I noticed what look like roma tomatoes growing on a wall. This vine is a famous weed called “crow melon” (カラス・ウリ). Apparently, it gets its name because it provides food for crows. The plants seems as resilient and citified as its avian namesake.

On the same walk, we noticed a boat in the Imperial Palace moat with guys using a small net to pick up leaves. Perhaps the trees above were pruned, and some fell into the moat. The meticulousness of the moat cleaning makes an interesting contrast for the untamed wildness of the crow melon vine and its avian companions.

Elegant Nezu Museum garden

The Nezu Museum and its gorgeous Japanese garden are a just short walk from the Nishi Azabu Juban wildness, the Kakuremino bar, and lush sidewalk garden. Many people come to the newly rebuilt Nezu Museum for its exquisite collection of pre-modern art, or the new building designed by Kuma Kengo. I am a huge fan of its garden that combines tea houses and paths in a setting that seems ancient, slightly overgrown, bigger than its footprint, and entirely removed from city life.

When I visited recently, just before closing time towards the end of a long, hot summer, I was enchanted by how the light struck this worn boat, the plants growing in its bow, and the illusion of minimal human habitation in an endless jungle. I was also surprised to see Japanese maple leaves already turning red, despite the temperature being above 32 celcius (90 fahrenheit) for many weeks.

Taken together, these four posts about Nishi Azabu Juban speak to the wide range of nature in the city: professional and amateur gardens, single plants and total environments, built and wild, public and gated, destinations and everyday experiences. Plants grow wild even in the densest cities, but how we choose to nurture them provides endlessly varied results. I am inspired by the full range of possibilities.