business

Lucky rakes help your business in the new year

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酉の市の熊手について、「ザクザク」という言葉を今年に勉強なりましたが。

This year I learned that the sound the rakes make in collecting your prosperity is “zaku zaku” (ザクザク). You can still get your lucky rake at Hanazono shrine in Shinjuku on Friday November 21 and Saturday November 22 from 10 pm until dawn.

 

Maritime shipping company has been operating for decades in this pre-Bubble office

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芝浦にある海運送会社です。バウハウスのような簡潔さがあるので、バブルの何年も前に建てられたと思います。濃い青色の陶器タイルは空に似合います。

The Bauhaus-like architectural simplicity and the decorative ceramic tiles mark this commercial building as product of postwar industry and trade, long before the excess of the Bubble. It’s lovely to see maritime companies that have done business for decades still exist along Tokyo’s waterfront.

Making Friends heads to London with tanuki

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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.

Please share this poster with anyone who might be interested. We are also seeking a design school, corporation, or other organization that would be interested in hosting a Making Friends talk, workshop, or consulting project.
Below we explain what Making Friends is about and the benefits for creativity, visual story-telling, and risk-taking. It also includes the anonymous conference reviews that are confused and appreciative. Thanks, as always, to my co-creator A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen.
Click to enlarge, or download the 2 page PDF that  includes the poster, sponsor benefits, and anonymous conference reviews. Thanks for joining us in improving the world’s Making Friends abilities.
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Back to business in Tokyo after the new year

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お正月が終わったら、日常生活が戻ります。このメトロの写真に、男性はみんな黒いスーツを来ているので、庭のより東京人のほうがもっと型にはまっていると思います。

Uniformity and order can be even more stylized in Tokyo human environments than gardens. How is it that every passenger in this frame is a man in a black suit? Can that small screen transport us somewhere more magical and more vivid than our surroundings?

Before and after views of pruned flower bed

花壇の剪定の前と後の写真。この庭はビルの管理人と退職した夫婦が世話をしています。上の写真は、10月で、葉と花が多いです。11月は、隣の壁が見えます。剪定の後で、もっと明るくなりました。冬も毎月、花が咲いています。

I like this before and after photo set. It shows an apartment building green space that sits between the ten story building and its two story neighbors, homes and a plumbing supply business. It borders a small street that is mostly pedestrian.

The garden has a mix of flowering vines, bushes, bulbs, and a row of pine trees that were probably planted 35 or 40 years ago. The utility pole support is borrowed infrastructure for training a vine upwards.

The photo above was taken October 24, 2011, and the one below November 23, 2011. Above you can see all the fullness of summer: lush foliage, pink and red flowers at every height level, a blurring of the boundary with the neighbor’s garden.

A month later, the 3 story tree has been heavily pruned, which lets light in during the cold months. All the plants have been cut back, and you can see the wall separating the properties.

The maintenance is a mix of semi-professional gardeners hired by the apartment building and a retired couple living in the garden apartment. Although far more restrained in winter, the garden continues to bloom in every month, no doubt because of their efforts.

Pasona’s vertical garden fills out near Nihonbashi

高層オフィスビルの垂直な庭はオフィス街を活気のある場所にする。

One office tower’s vertical garden brings new life to Tokyo’s business district.

Pasona’s headquarter’s vertical garden is filling out and bringing new life to the crowded office streetscape between Nishonbashi and Tokyo Station. The lushly planted wall includes many traditional Japanese garden plants and imports such as blueberry bushes. I like how it contrasts with the surrounding office towers, from the 1980s to recent years, and demonstrates that the potential for office wall gardens to benefit everyone inside and outside the building.

It’s amazing how much the garden has grown since I last visited Pasona in May. I am very excited to see this corporate garden become a landmark in the Yaesu district. It would be great for Mori or Mitsubishi to follow this example and experiment with vertical gardens and wildlife habitats on much taller Tokyo buildings. I also hope that Pasona continues to innovate with its urban landscape. Sidewalk gardens? More fruit trees? Butterfly hatcheries? Honeybees? Falcon’s nests?

Below are some details photos, including leaves that have turned red this fall, and some late-in-the-year pink roses.

A historic landmark buried under freeway in Tokyo

Approaching by foot or by car, you would not know that up ahead is one of Tokyo’s most famous historic landmarks, Nihonbashi (日本橋, or literally Japan Bridge). During Edo, it was an important wooden bridge in the center of the capital. Today, Japan’s highway network uses the bridge as the zero mile marker.

Despite its landmark status, the 1911 stone bridge is obscured by the elevated freeway. When I visited, I saw a pair of elderly Japanese tourists taking photos of themselves with the bridge. The many pedestrians and the speeding cars on street and freeway level showed no signs of recognition that this space was special.

Like many of Tokyo’s rivers, what could be natural habitat and urban attraction has become dead space. Apart from one outdoor hotel cafe, the neighboring buildings face away from the river, freeway, pillars, and exhaust.

19-20-21 Super City project by Richard Saul Wurman

The 19-20-21 Super City project by Richard Saul Wurman looks at the impact of mega urbanization on the environment and people. From the inventor of the term “information archictect” and founder of the TED conference, this project succinctly captures the massive change worldwide caused by the unprecedented growth of global cities and what it means for “business and urban planning.”

New year decorations

Above is a kadomatsu, or new year’s decoration that rests on the ground. These large ones are usually in front of businesses. This one is in front of one of my favorite Tokyo haunts: the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium constructed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and open to the public now in central Tokyo.

The materials are bamboo, pine, straw and red berries. I love the decorative rope flower and the splayed straw at the base. Below is the shimekazari hanging outside of our apartment door. Notice the folded paper and rice stalk. After the holiday, these plant-based new year’s symbols are  burned at shrines. So different than the un-ceremonial sidewalk dumping of US Christmas trees.

Happy new year! Best wishes for a bright new decade.

Corporate reaction to climate change

With the Copenhagen international climate conference approaching in December, the reaction of business leaders to climate change is becoming increasingly dynamic.

Recently California’s Pacific Gas and Electric, PG&E, resigned its membership in the United States Chamber of Commerce in protest of their positions on climate change and cap-and-trade proposals. Its spokesperson referred to its “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort” scientific findings about global climate change. Other members such as Nike and Johnson & Johnson have tried to distance themselves from the Chamber’s environmental statements and activities.

In Japan, the nation’s most prominent business association, Keidanren, strongly supported the Liberal Democrat Party and their recent low carbon emissions targets. There seems to be considerable conflict with the current Democratic Party Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s ambitious goals of a 25% reduction in emissions, including technology transfers to developing countries.

I recently learned that there is a second business council in Japan called Keizai Doyukua (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), headed by the CEO of Ricoh, that is closer to the new prime minister and more open to the new global business opportunities that environmental regulation will bring. It is interesting to note which corporate executives Hatoyama recently appointed to the Government Revitalization Unit, a key committee on eliminating government waste: Kyocera Corp. Honorary Chairman Kazuo Inamori and Kikkoman Corp. Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi.

Biomimicry and Innovation

Janine Benyus TED Global talk

Janine Benyus gave a TED Global talk this summer about how biomimicry provides sustainable innovation inspired by nature. Benyus main claim is that “we are part of a brilliant planet and surrounded by genius.”

Examples she cites are JR West’s examination of the kingfisher to solve the problem of trains creating pressure and sonic booms when going through tunnels. Sharklet Technology applied the pattern of Galapagos sharks that repels bacteria to design anti-bacterial washes. Calera uses knowledge of coral reefs to sequester carbon in cement.

Here’s a video of her TED Global talk from 2009. Her 1997 book is Biomimicry: Innovations Inspired by Nature.

She also has a consulting company the Biomimicry Guild, a public website called AskNature.org, and has worked for global engineering and urban planning leaders like ARUP.

Her video from the 2005 TED conference is below.

Carbon reduction is electoral issue

Japan election results from 2005

Japan is entering a heated campaign for the Diet, and the Liberal Democrat Party ruling party faces a serious challenge that is unusual in the post-war period. The campaign by the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, has largely revolved around  a broad call for “change,” while many observers have difficulty discerning differences in campaign promises or likely governing policies.

It is interesting to note that the opposition DPJ declared yesterday that they are committed to a 25% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 (from 1990 levels),  in contrast to the LDP’s 8% target. Policies include a cap and trade policy, opposed by business, a “feed-in tariff” that obliges power companies to buy renewable energy at a fixed price, and the “consideration” of an environment tax.

Reaching agreement between advanced and emerging countries on 2020 targets is critical to the success of the upcoming UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. Some may be skeptical about whether electoral promises will be carried out. Regardless of the outcome, it will be interesting to see how much this issue resonates with the Japanese electorate and whether they will accept the price for environmental change.

(Note: The chart above shows the distribution of seats from the 2005 election).

Flowers outside small businesses

Flowers outside small businesses

Main streets and smaller shopping streets in Tokyo residential neighborhoods are full of small businesses. It is interesting to see that many of these small businesses have potted flowers outside, on the sidewalk or the shop entrance that are updated seasonally. Is it personal passion, business beautification, or both?

Above is a plumbing supply store. Below a cleaners, and lastly a convenience store.

Flowers outside small businesses Flowers outside small businesses