My friend Sho, whom I met in Nakano, created this promotional video for a Japanese fashion brand called ID Daily Wear. You can see that I am wearing their super high-quality and made in Japan pocket t-shirt. But it’s cool that the video also introduces my high-rise garden, the field of design anthropology, and why my neighbors inspire me to document Tokyo Green Space. The photography and especially the editing tell a a big story in a few minutes. The Japanese translation is also superb. Thanks, Sho!
Making Friends has been accepted for a tech-focused London conference on ethnography and business. This poster is a mash-up of real-time research, storytelling, and prank. Making Friends tests the boundaries of inter-species friendship while risking rejection and misunderstanding.
Minimal and superb Omotesando Koffee is a modular cube inside an old Omotesando house. It’s supposed to last one year, after which the building may be “reformed” as the Japanese call it.
In addition to delicious coffee in a nearly hidden spot, Omotesando Koffee has the most perfect Japanese garden with two benches for seating. I love the stone path, old light fixtures, and the very Tokyo odd mix of wood, bamboo, and the ubiquitous cinder block.
It’s a very small garden, with many traditional and resilient Japanese plants, including hollyhock, maple, and hydrangea. Worth finding if you’re in the area. Hollyhock is becoming my favorite late summer flower.
For those far away, I have included an image of the sign outside (it looks like a black frame), and the clever way they turn standard paper bags into a lovely and minimal branded object.
Marui’s new Nakano store offers a generous sidewalk, blurring public and commercial spaces. I love how Marui is making public landscaping its brand identity.
I am super pleased that the new Marui department store in Nakano is building a great entrance. Rather than build up to the edge of the property, Marui has a two-story atrium by setting back its entrance, with four mature trees and hopefully some planter beds. By blurring the line between public and commercial space, Marui will create an engaging sidewalk with plants.
For a short stretch of this narrow sidewalk on the south side of the JR station, there will be plants on both sides.
This store design seems related to the new Shinjuku store landscape, which I blogged last year. That store also has two very popular ground floor food shops (an Italian gelato and French bakery) that are very open to the sidewalk and attractive, new green spaces.
I like to see how smart retailers realize that improving the sidewalk and pedestrian experience will increase business and goodwill. There is no contradiction between generosity and profits. I hope that this public green space becomes a recognizable part of Marui’s brand identity. I’ll definitely check out Marui Nakano when it opens soon.
Takahashi Yusuke, a database expert with a Keio PhD, and I created a poster for the URBIO conference last month introducing a mobile app for city residents to monitor and promote urban wildlife.
In brief, our mobile app entitled UBITS (Urban Biodiversity Identification and Tracking System) allows school children, bird watchers, gardeners, hobbyists, and amateur naturalists use their mobile phones to capture images, sounds and locations of birds, butterflies, bees, insects, trees, and other plant life; query multiple databases to identify wildlife and plant species; participate in collaborative mapping of urban species by location, frequency and time of year; and increase habitat for urban biodiversity.
The project is at concept stage, and it would be great to find a start-up, corporation or university that can fund a working prototype and launch this application for iPhone or Android. Participatory science that promotes increased habitat provides an excellent branding opportunity, educational tool, and new way to bring nature to the city.
Great New York Times story about benefits of corporate gardens, including Pepsi-Co and Aveda. Improves worker morale, eating, health, and informal conversation across departments. Why doesn’t every company create a small edible garden? By adding native plants to storefronts and walls, and giving small plants to customers, corporations can brand themselves and create distributed habitat, too.
Several months ago Marui opened up another department store in Shinjuku san chome, along with at least three other existing ones and retail competition that includes Isetan’s flagship across the street. It is interesting that one of its defining design themes is green space. If you arrive by Tokyo Metro, you can see strips of living plant walls in the underground passageway.
At the street level, Marui created large gardens more than a meter wide along the sidewalk with trees, bushes and grasses. This provides an unexpected burst of plant life in an area otherwise paved and overflowing with signage and people.
Marui even uses low light plants in indoor merchandising. It feels like a coherent and unique brand identity extending from outside to inside the retail space. Unfortunately some of the indoor “plants” are plastic, including faux vines above the first floor selling area, but not everyone notices.
In the photo above you can see how the subway level green wall is a modular system, allowing easy replacement of plants. It’s great to see a retail company standing out by providing plants and gardens to passer-bys as well as shoppers.
Omotesando is known for its parade of imported brands: Dior, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, etc. It also has an amazing canopy of zelkova trees (called keyaki or 欅 in Japanese). This photo taken on a rainy day earlier this week shows the trees covered in moss. Looking up from the busy sidewalk, you see many shades of green, bold patterns, and soaring structure that are oblivious to fashion and commerce.
Walking in Tokyo always provides new discoveries. In Ginza, where global brands are housed in tall ultra-contemporary mid-rises, there are still small alleys and two story buildings. I was astounded to stumble upon this bakery housed in what seems the perfect simulation of the French countryside.
When Japanese set out to evoke a foreign scene, it is amazing how many details they add to create the perfect illusion. This bakery, Patisserie Qu’il fait bon, achieves its look with a simple two story structure with plentiful casement windows, a cobblestone driveway, and just slightly excessive exterior lighting. But perhaps even more effective is the landscaping: many layers of plants, all in pots, much like the humble gardens created by older ladies in countless residential streets. What makes this landscape at once bold and persuasive are the many layers, variety of colors that harmonize with the paint trim, and the assortment of metal and recycle wood plants with objects such as a rusted chair, a clock, some farm house wheels, and other bric-a-brac. I like how artfully “untamed” the landscape appears, despite being meticulously staged and styled.