In the center of Shinjuku ni-chome, a man who seems to have lived in the same shop house for many decades has created a narrow garden in the 25 centimeters between sidewalk and street. It occupies his side of the street, and the opposite side of the street, with well over 100 pots all existing in public space that is frequented by patrons of the hundreds if not thousands of small gay bars. It has the largest number of gay bars of any gay neighborhood in any city in the world. I like how the gardener has labeled all his plants, some pots are secured with chains, and some propped up on beer crates.
Angel’s Trumpet, or brugmansia, reminds me of San Francisco. Its big flowers are particularly fragrant at night. Originally from the Andes mountains of South America, in Tokyo this wonderful bush dies back in the winter and re-sprouts every April.
Leaving an inspiring talk in Nishi Azabu-Juban yesterday evening, the intoxicating scent of Angel’s Trumpet made me pause. And take a photo.
Brugmansia is also very common in San Francisco (and many continents including New Zealand), although it comes originally from South America. It produces an incredible scent, but only at night. In Tokyo, the summer heat seems to overwhelm the plant. By fall, this hardy large shrub/small tree grows to three or four meters in height, and flowers continuously until winter frost makes them die back. By May they begin to shoot up from the ground.
Angel’s Trumpet, sometimes also called Devil’s Trumpet, is a strangely familiar plant: hardy and decorative, with a shamanistic function in its native Amazon habitat.