「私たちの田んぼを見ましたか」と聞かれました。畳屋のオーナーは歩道に置いたバケツで稲を育てています。Shibaura HouseのKanto Tour Guideの途中で偶然に会いました。家の畳を変えようかと考えています。
On Shibaura House’s Kanto Tour Guide in Suginami, we saw an open door and a man making tatami mats above the garage. The friendly proprietor of Haketa Tatami shop in Shin Koenji told us that his family has had this business in Suginami for decades, starting with his father. In addition to showing us his craftsmanship, he asked us whether we had seen his “rice field.” It’s in the white bucket, to the left of the shop sign.
I also learned that tatami mats should be changed every 3 or 4 years. Ours are coming up on 6 years, so maybe it’s time to order a new set?
Growing rice in buckets on the sidewalk isn’t likely to put any rice farmers out of business. Still, it’s a lovely sight in Tokyo during the summer, and brings a country feeling into the hard-surfaced city.
Our Tokyo balcony, like everyone’s, is a multi-purpose space: washing machine, clothes line, air conditioner. I like the constraint of gardening in a small space. There’s room for one tiny kid’s chair, and the blue bucket and ladle are what I use to water the garden.
Just in front of the garbage sorting area at a large apartment building, a neighbor has left a bucket of water with rosemary and “beroperone” (ベロペロネ), the “little shrimp” ornamental I recently spotted in the neighborhood growing between two walls. The plants are in water so that the cuttings grow roots. I love how the note invites neighbors to adopt these plants. I like the ethos of sharing and encouraging the diffusion of these plants with neighbors.
I first saw these vines a month ago on a nearby sidewalk. They are growing in plastic buckets with an elaborate plastic twine trellis supported by a tree branch. Initially I misidentified them as morning glory. Recently, I saw how tall and thick the vines had become, and that they are in fact bitter melon, with vegetables ready to eat. The shop owner saw me taking these photos, and seemed very proud of his summer edible garden on a busy street.
Seeing rice grown in buckets and styrofoam boxes always amazes me: focusing the national obsession with the main staple into a city scale. No one will get full from miniature rice farms, but I am sure that tending rice in the city makes residents appreciate eating rice even more. These buckets were lined up outside a gate at Waseda’s main campus.
I have started to notice all over Tokyo that people are creating makeshift plastic rope trellises for summer morning glory vines. This one near my home is particularly ingenious: the trellis wraps around two blue buckets containing the vines, and the rope is looped over the street tree. A zig-zag pattern is added for extra support.
Is this a new trend? I am looking forward to watching these plants grow this summer.
UPDATE: One month later, the vines cover the trellis, and I realize that it’s bitter melon, not morning glory. The vegetables are ready to eat.
My friend Endo Masahiro’s Sodateck has developed a combination LED and fluorescent grow light system for Japan. By combining the two light sources, Sodateck offers an optimal spectrum for plants. I like how his product catalog, in print and web, shows indoor gardening in a very contemporary setting: edibles and decorative plants in a chic wood and stone house with bicycles and other signifiers of modern style and living.
Based in Tokushima, Shikoku, he recently exhibited his indoor gardening system at the Gardex (International Garden Expo Tokyo). It was great to see the full range of what he is creating.
The systems are very elegant: brushed steel with two buttons, one for each light source type. Endo-san also brought some of his indoor plant creations, including modern bonsais like this moss on black stone tray. It seems clear that Endo-san is influenced by his friendship with modern bonsai master Kobayashi Kenji (小林健二) of Sinajina (品品).
Click the link below to see some more photos of his products, including hydroponic systems with his business partner Yakumo Trading.