Kaza Hana: Amazing garden shop/cafe/bar in Aoyama

Leaving a meeting recently, I walked through some back streets of Aoyama, and came across this amazing sidewalk garden. The contrast between the potted plant garden and the slick glass building was intriguing. The aesthetics, density and plant selection made me realize quickly that this was not an amateur garden.

Inside this amazing vertical forest is Kaza Hana, a florist, garden design company, cafe and bar. The exterior merits further study for its vertical garden construction, its mix of Japanese garden plants and exotics, and masterful mix of color, texture, and form.

Completely enchanted, I decided to relax and enjoy lunch there as well. Inside, the jungle immersion theme continues, with plants everywhere, hanging sculptures, and a flower shop along one wall. I was fortunate to have a long chat with a flower instructor, Yoshida Miho, who later sent me her blog full of wonderful flower photos and a description of her work with plant therapy and “natural life design.”

Yoshida-san explained that Kaza Hana’s owner is a garden designer named Ishihara Kazuyuki (石原和幸). Ishihara-san has won three consecutive gold medals at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. This fall he will also be showing his work at the 2010 Gardening World Cup this October in Nagasaki; you can see his profile and portfolio on their site. I believe Ishihara-san started as an ikebana designer.

Below are two more images from the shop, and also the intriguing sidewalk garden Ishihara-san designed for the hair salon across the street. I hope to meet Ishihara-san and learn more about Yoshida-san’s work, too.

Building around existing trees

After watching my neighbor’s home and then garden get scarped to dirt last week, it’s great to see a cafe like this one at Waseda’s Okubo campus where the new building adapts itself to the existing mature trees. With very limited space, much longer than deep, the campus was able to add a narrow cafe that is mostly counter space with views of the sidewalk and street. I like how modern and adaptive this architecture is.

Treehouse Hideaway cafe in Harajuku

Last week I explored the back alleys of Harajuku with Azby Brown, director of the KIT Future Design Institute and author of Just Enough: Lessons in Green Living from Traditional Japan. Beneath the veneer of teen fashion and continual demolition and rebuilding, we saw a small remnant of a four hundred year old cemetery, vestiges of hills and streams, and walls and buildings from the time of World War II.

But nothing was more striking than this Treehouse Hideaway Cafe on the north side of Harajuku, towards Yoyogi. A funky stairway leads up to a second story, green building that wraps around an enormous pine tree. Further up the tree is an open air platform. The treehouse was created by Kobayashi Takashi (小林崇). Kobayashi has created treehouses all over Japan.

So much of Tokyo and other urban built structures eradicates the natural environment it occupies. It is very cool to see the structure built around this old tree, and to see something you might associate with the countryside in the heart of Tokyo’s trendy fashion district.

Here’s a map to find the cafe. On the day we toured Harajuku, a flash mob assembled because of a rumored appearance by teen band Hey! Say! Jump, injuring several teen fans. We were fortunate not to get caught in that).