Freezing temperatures and icy streets are keeping me indoors. But I am always amazed at how much still grows in Tokyo’s winter months. The most spectacular and surprising is this large citrus called “hassaku.”
For years I believed general comments about how the fruit is too sour to eat. Then I participated last year in Edoble’s hassaku marmalade-making. This tree can be seen everywhere in Tokyo, so it must be well suited. I like how it’s both decorative and edible!
Small green spaces in Nihonbashi include the Kabuto shrine and anonymous wall gardens.
In addition to a few historic corporate and government landscapes, Nihonbashi also has small shrines and anonymous micro-gardens. Canada’s Discovery History program filmed me talking about these locations. By accident, I stumbled upon a small Shinto shrine called Kabuto. It stands between a building covered in scaffolding and multiple elevated freeways just east of Edobashi bridge. It’s also across the street from the Bubble-era Tokyo Stock Exchange. Just behind it is the river.
Kabuto means samurai helmet. The shrine lends its name to the surrounding area. At the entrance are simple wood doors with the kanji for “kabuto” etched. The shrine seems very well maintained, and I wonder if those responsible for the shrine are the current business neighbors or descendants of generations of shrine keepers. I wonder, too, if the shrine used to be larger and better connected to the river. Now it seems almost swallowed up by the man-made environment on three side and from above.
It’s interesting that while the Tokyo Station area is full of new towers and multinational corporations, there are also still some small alleys and low buildings that provide a glimpse of the past. I found this curious sidewalk garden outside a five-story building that houses a reflexology clinic, a ramen shop, accountants, and probably a residence on top.
Here’s the list of tenants and the old entrance door. The garden is simple, well-cared for, and a cheerful sight in a densely packed area.
In Nihonbashi, you can still see a few old trees preserved alongside rare, pre-war government and corporate buildings.
Recently I spoke with Canada’s Discovery History channel filmmakers about urban planning in Tokyo, and they requested that we film at Nihonbashi. What was once the center of Edo Japan is now buried beneath an elevated freeway. I used this opportunity to explore Nihonbashi’s surroundings, and came across some interesting government and corporate trees. These sites were not included in the filming, but I found them interesting.
The giant pines outside the old Bank of Japan building are very impressive. While the structure is partly covered in blue tarp and seems unused, the elegant landscaping with more than a dozen, perfectly pruned trees looks magnificent.
I was also impressed to see Mitsubishi’s river-side warehouse at the Edobashi crossing. This building, too, seems to have survived the great Kanto earthquake and the United State firebombing during World War II. In Tokyo, buildings are constantly raised and rebuilt, which almost always means destroying the old landscapes. It’s interesting to spot a few examples of building preservation that also protect older trees and landscapes.
A documentary television producer from Canada contacted me about filming an episode for their History Channel show about the history of sanitation in the world’s great cities called “Trasholopolis.” I was flattered that they had read this blog and my articles, and want to include me in their Tokyo episode.
I have posted the Kanda paper that was presented at the International Federation of Landscape Architects conference (co-authored with Matthew Puntigam and Professor Suzuki Makoto of Tokyo University of Agriculture). But I realize that I didn’t have a good size image of the Kanda from Nakano Fujimichio, with an orange tree in the foreground and the skyscrapers of Nishi Shinjuku in the background.