I’ve been enjoying wandering through my old haunts in San Francisco. I lived on this block for ten years during and after graduate school.
Compared to Tokyo, I always wonder, where is everybody? It seems they are either indoors or in their cars.
I recently returned to Tokyo from a trip to the US that included a formal meeting with my fellowship sponsor and visits to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York.
In the US, urban ecology initiatives seem particularly strong at the municipal government and individual levels. In the photo above, I spotted an amazing formal garden extending on one side of second floor apartment. Perhaps the plants are kept small to preserve light and views from inside.
What makes Tokyo residential districts very charming and perhaps surprising for foreigners are the narrow pedestrian walkways and small streets where pedestrians and bicyclists outnumber cars.
There’s something pre-modern and non-rational about the web of small Tokyo lanes, with unpredictable turns and numerous dead ends. The densely packed two and three story buildings almost touch, with a mix of small apartments and single family houses. Neither walkways nor small streets are named, there is no grid, and small gardens and small shops are the only way to remember your path the next time.
The foliage is a mix of cultivated plants and “volunteers.” With rainfall plentiful year-round, it is easy to imagine the city reverting to jungle. If only there was less concrete.