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One of my favorite public gardens is in the center of Shinjuku ni-chome

この歩道の植木鉢の庭が大好きです。新宿二丁目のまんなかにあって、両側の道路に百以上の植物があります。それぞれにラベルがついています。

In the center of Shinjuku ni-chome, a man who seems to have lived in the same shop house for many decades has created a narrow garden in the 25 centimeters between sidewalk and street. It occupies his side of the street, and the opposite side of the street, with well over 100 pots all existing in public space that is frequented by patrons of the hundreds if not thousands of small gay bars. It has the largest number of gay bars of any gay neighborhood in any city in the world. I like how the gardener has labeled all his plants, some pots are secured with chains, and some propped up on beer crates.

3.11 Anti-Nuclear demonstrators form human chain around Diet, the national assembly.

3.11の一年目の追悼と反原発のヒューマンチェーンに参加して、写真をたくさんとりました。高齢者が多くて、コズプレもあって、悲しく、同時に色がたくさんありました。ポケモンを何人か見ました。数万人が国会議事堂を囲んで、非常に感動しました。

On the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, I spent the afternoon at a memorial in Hibiya Park, and then joined tens of thousands forming a human chain around Japan’s national assembly, the Diet. I snapped a lot of photos, along with @sub_fauna, who took some great photos.

It was great to see so many people coming together to ask for fundamental change to energy and politics. Striking were the number of seniors, the odd costumes including several Pokemon, the mix of the mournful and colorful. A few Japanese friends asked me what a “human chain” was, as if it were a complicated imported notion. It was very touching to see people holding hands around the center of government.

I was also impressed with how organized the entire demonstration and policing were. The long cross-walk in front of the Diet was occupied only while the light was red. The police remained very calm, and their main tools were rolls of neon police tape, megaphones, and fabric traffic barriers with rings for lines of police to easily hold.

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A freeway runs through Odaiba

お台場の駅から浜に行く途中で、この大きな高速道路を渡らなければなりません。空いた所有地のほうが開発されたものより多いです。だから、出入り口のふたつが放棄されて、そこに植物が育っています。浜からの景色は楽しいです。港やスカイラインやレインボーブリッジや小型の自由の女神が見えます。この組み合わせはちょっと奇妙です。

Exiting the subway station in Odaiba, the way to the famed “beach” with city view includes walking past vast parking lots and then over this eight lane freeway.

What’s amazing about this view is that in addition to the enormous freeway, there are abandoned ramps on both sides, that are gradually being reclaimed by plants. Is land so value-less that this waste is considered appropriate?

There are still more empty than developed parcels on Odaiba, an urban development project with mixed results. The focus on freeways, parking lots, and chain restaurants and stores often makes it feel like a generic exurban landscape.

I hear that it is a popular place for dates. But I’ve been there only three times in as many years. Most recently I was there to get a ride to Umi no Mori for a volunteer tree planting day (more on that later). But a few extra hours gave me my first taste of Odaiba itself.

Once across the freeway and past the mall, there are some beautiful public spaces including an artificial beach. There are views of the port, the Tokyo skyline with the Rainbow Bridge, and some odd built decor that includes a mini Statue of Liberty on land.

Beautiful raphis palms outside of small shop

I love how this small shop on Shinjuku Dori has two beautiful raphis palms outside the storefront. They provide a lush and tropical look and partly obscure the air conditioning unit.  Tokyo has a surprising number of small shops throughout the city, and their owners seem more likely to take pride in their neighborhood and cultivate plants than big chain stores.