Always reminds me of @a_small_lab
My super-extroverted tanuki co-conspirator, Chris Berthelsen, has relocated to New Zealand. It was touching that at our last public outing his special feature consisted of a 1964 Tokyo Olympic cloth featuring African-American athletes. Although not clear from this poor photo, the setting is Aoyama Danchi, one of tanuki’s favorite urban wild spaces.
Thanks, Chris, for all the creativity and boundary hopping. I was also super happy to hear that the original tanuki mask, made by Chris’ wife, is now in the possession of a Dutch teen in Tokyo.
Please join @a_small_lab and me for a tanuki adventure next Tuesday, July 9, noon to 1 pm, at Shibaura House. Details below. Many thanks to Shibaura House for their support.
SHIBAURA HOUSEに来て、江戸時代から有名なタヌキさんに会いませんか？ 2人の外国人が、タヌキさんをまた東京に呼び戻したいと考えています。東京メトロに乗ってタヌキが友達を作る企画（http://wp.me/piwM0-23e）は、ロンドンのテクノロジー関係の学会で承認されました。スマートフォンがなくても、タヌキさんは友達を作ることが上手です。
Please come to Shibaura House to meet the famous tanuki from Edo. Two foreigners want to welcome shape-shifting tanuki back to Tokyo. Their photo story about Making Friends with Tanuki in the Tokyo Metro was selected by a London technology conference for its unusual real-time interaction. How come, even without a smartphone, tanuki is so good at making friends? Why do we need animals in cities? What is the importance of wild and unexpected things in our lives? Please bring an open mind and your own bento. Let’s go on an adventure.
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.
来月は、CITIESというアムステルダムの雑誌が都市農園の本を出します。Chris Berthelsen とJessica Mantellと、東京ローカルフルーツについて書きました。@citiesonline をありがとうございます。
Amsterdam-based CITIES is releasing Farming the City on April 10. Chris Berthelsen, Jessica Mantell, and I contributed a chapter on Tokyo local fruit. Please check it out online or on Facebook. Great illustration!
My super-prolific friend Chris Berthelsen has released two small self-published stories. The first is “Child Scale” or “Rainy Day Treasures” about how Tokyo streets look, smell, and feel for kids. Chris’ writing, mappings, and photographs follows a rainy day walk to the local public bathhouse with a four year old. It’s a rich observation and reflection on play and creativity. The street is the ultimate shared space in our cities, for a variety of ages, walking and transit. After reading Child Scale, I’ll pay more attention to the “floorscape” than my usual rushing or daydreaming.
Child Scale is just $3.50. You get a 112 page download, with A5 print and screen resolution PDFs. The Huffington Post and Atlantic Cities have already referenced this digital booklet. It will be enjoyed by those wanting to think more about Tokyo, urbanism, children, play, and creativity.
The second booklet is by Chris’ son Tonka, who writes about his Tokyo Spider Research. It’s a 19 page booklet that examines spiders found inside and nearby a Tokyo apartment. Tonka’s handwritten notes and photographs provide a detailed document about some of the small creatures sharing our urban lives. The booklet is in Japanese and English, and will certainly inspire you to look more closely at the あimmediate environment around you. It’s just $2 for the download.
S.C.R.O.T.U.M.‘s Chris Berthelsen spreads the word of inter-species friendship to a local elementary school and leaves a gift of a large format picture book for future reference. We were impressed by the teacher’s acceptance of our presentation of inter-species friendship, and her enthusiasm to make it top news in “this week’s newsletter”. Not many families, and (I think) zero fathers take part in the tradition of ‘morning storytelling’. They’re all too busy. Hopefully the positive write up will encourage them to take a morning off from their work.
The book itself is a one-off production – a quickly printed out selection of S.C.R.O.T.U.M’s Animal Architecture submission with Jess Mantell, and Jared’s “Making Friends” photo montage. We were inspired by the enthusiasm of the children and their incisive questions, especially “so what part of the body does the female tanuki use to make friends?”. We are now in an ongoing (and legal) study with this bright 8 year old girl.
My Tokyo Local Fruits partners Chris Berthelsen and Jessica Mantell and I responded to an open call from Limno, an independent Italian research center that investigates landscapes. They included us in their elegant book 76 Pounds and XVI Coins (76 Libbre e XVI Soldi) that investigates the cultural and natural layers of Venice’s Forte Marghera, built by Austrian and French invaders. Our article on Tokyo Local Fruit ends the book.
With A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen, I’ll be leading an afternoon tour tomorrow of Tokyo Bay and the Sumida river for Still City, an exciting workshop hosted at Shibaura House with international participants interested in urban design.
Anyone is free to join us tomorrow, or to use the itinerary on your own at any time. I like the layers of history visible when viewing Tokyo as a once great waterway, and the current reverberations of last century’s apocalyptic earthquakes, war bombing, surrender, and reinvention. The centuries old Japanese garden uses salt water from the bay for its ponds, there will be early fall folliage, and we will ride Himiko, the crazy boat in the photo above.
Still City is a Dutch-Japanese workshop looking at opportunities suggested by viewing Tokyo as emblematic of post-growth urban life. It’s supported by the Japan Foundation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with its local embassy.
Overview: We’ll visit a traditional Japanese garden near Shibaura House, recall Tokyo’s river heritage on a water bus up the Sumida River, and explore Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. A frugal afternoon exploring a few still spaces in this churning megalopolis. Spontaneous picnicking, beers from final-generation liquor stores, and foraged city food are all possible.
1. Enjoy a traditional Japanese garden: Meet at Hamarikyu Garden at 1.00 pm (Nakanogomon Gate entrance)
Hamarikyu Garden is an Edo-style garden situated between the glass high-rises of Shiodome and Tokyo Bay. A traditional Japanese garden dating back hundreds of years, this spot by the bay played a critical role in the negotiations between US General McArthur and Emperor Hirohito in settling the war and the fate of the imperial family. Perhaps they partook in duck hunting together, a ruling class pastime marked with a religious shrine.
Where: Hamarikyu Garden is a short walk from Hamamatsuchou, Shimbashi, and Shiodome stations, about 2 km from Shibaura House. You can easily walk from Shibaura House, or take the Yamanote line or the Yurikamome monorail.
Cost: 300 yen admission
2. Boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa: Meet at Hinode Pier’s Waterbus Station at 2.45 pm
The water bus from Hinode Pier to Asakusa takes about 40 minutes. Going upstream on the wide Sumida River, you can experience Tokyo’s river heritage, and see a good part of eastern Tokyo, including the new Sky Tree. For those new to Tokyo and even for those who live here, viewing Tokyo by boat is a rare and fun event.
Where: Hinode Pier is half way between Hamarikyu Garden and Shibaura House. There’s also a Yurikamome monorail station there.
Cost: 720 yen. Boat leaves at 2.55 pm.
3. Explore old Tokyo at Asakusa: Arrive by water bus at 3.30 pm
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. It has been less gentrified in the post-war years, and retains an old Tokyo feeling. We’ll check out a shrine, a market, and some back street gardening. Time permitting, we’ll stop at a neighborhood bathhouse to relax after the tour. Feel free to return at any time.
Return to Shibaura House: Take the Toei Subway Asakusa Line to Mita station, then walk. 18 min on express train, 210 yen.
@a_small_lab, @jessmantell, and I spoke with Greenz Japan about our research on Tokyo Local Fruit. I was glad to see our ideas, images, and preliminary research results published in Japanese. Greenz is an online magazine and community focused on sustainability in Japan.
渋谷で写真撮影をしました。タヌキが渋谷川から東京に入ってきます。東急グループの新しいヒカリエを訪れて、渋谷駅のDean & Delucca でコーヒーを飲みます。そして、サラリーマンに健康的な息抜きと逃避の方法を教えています。
Tanukis are real and mythic animals that once inhabited Tokyo, and are now primarily found as large ceramic statues outside local bars and restaurants. Tanukis are shape shifters, with a special superpower emanating from their floor-scraping scrotums.
My Tokyo Local Fruit co-instigators, Chris Berthelsen (of A Small Lab) and Jess Mantell (of Edoble), and I have been thinking about this subject through a contest submission for Animal Architecture and related articles to be published online soon. We’re calling our new research effort, the Studio for Creative Revitalization of Tanuki Urban Manifestations, or S.C.R.O.T.U.M.
We would like to encourage more urban human/non-human cohabitation, and are inspired by what a tanuki-friendly Tokyo would look and feel like. Here are some images from a recent photo shoot in Shibuya. Jess will add to the images to suggest new scenarios of interaction and play.
You could imagine tanuki entering the big city by river, and then interacting with the human inhabitants.
Tanuki visits Tokyu Corporation’s new Hikarie shopping complex, has a coffee at the Dean and Delucca outside Shibuya station, and encourages office workers to find healthier ways to relax and escape.
Do you eat, grow, or share local fruit in Tokyo? We are collecting stories about Tokyo local, or non-commercial, fruit. Please share yours.
The incredibly prolific, creative, and productive Chris Berthelsen has launched a new public project, called ここの話, Koko no hanashi: Talking about Here. It’s an amazing, low tech and also analog project that creates community dialogue about public, publicly visible, and abandoned urban spaces. He’s prototyped it this week in western Tokyo, and you can read about it online and follow its progress through Twitter and a mailing list.
Talking about Here relies on a simple framework: placing a laminated sign and a simple question, like “Why can’t we use this park at night,” to invite neighbors to discuss very local spaces that are shared, visible, or under-utilized. People can respond using the QR code, or by simply writing in the notebook that is attached to the sign with a pen. Responses will be collated on a stripped down blog specific to each location.
The five initial locations are an interesting mix: a bleak park in front of a factory (run-down, official), a friendly neighborhood park which has been declared a ‘night no-go zone’ (well-kept, official), a park under an elevated freeway (run-down, secluded, official), an abandoned car in an apartment complex parking lot (illegal use), and a deserted house on a school route (run-down, private property).
The prototype just went up this week, and there are many questions: Will the signs be taken down? Will officials contact Chris to question his actions? Will neighbors use the QR code or notebooks to record their feeling and memories? Will neighbors be interested to read what other neighbors record?
I am always amazed at Chris’ imagination and ability to make things happen, with low fidelity tools and a bit of daring. We have worked together in creating the Tokyo DIY Gardening project, including the blog and collaborative mapping workshop last August at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. I believe he’s now got four projects launched in his spare time, all of which are shared freely online.
I have asked Chris if I can participate in Phase 2 of this project. I already have a few places in mind: a beautiful abandoned wood house with a garden that is minimally maintained by a neighbor, a pedestrian path that is heavily used and sitting above an old creek, my neighbors’ fruit trees. It might be interesting to ask property owners if they would like to have a sign that seeks comments about their public gardens. I wonder what the reaction will be?
I am super-excited to let everyone know that in partnership with the amazing Chris Berthelsen of Fixes, we have launched a new project called Tokyo-DIY-gardening. There is a website where we hope others will contribute. You can follow our Twitter hash tag #tokyoDIYgardening.
And, if you are in Tokyo, please come to our interactive workshop at the new 3331 Arts Chiyoda space where we introduce the project and invite a collaborative mapping and re-imagining of Tokyo as the greenest city full of gardens, plants, and trees. The workshop will be held in Japanese and English on August 21 from 7 to 9 pm.
Chris and I are excited to participate in the Grand Opening series of events at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, and look forward to opening our project to many voices.
On my walk with Chris Berthelsen through Harajuku, Jingumae, and Sendagaya, we stumbled into the Hatomori shrine (鳩森神社). In front of its splendid Noh theater, we noticed several lovely and very simple benches made of logs and what look like giant metal staples. Along with plenty of shade, it’s great this city shrine also provides a place to rest.