city

Tokyo Balcony Garden Press

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Shu Kuge has shifted his art from comics to wood block prints, using the name Tokyo Balcony Garden Press. I love that the name references our Tokyo home. Above are some of the wood blocks he made this winter in Tokyo. Looking forward to spending the rest of spring and summer in Japan together.

In addition to his art work, Shu has also helped my consulting company, Social Models, with comics, personas, and mascots for corporate clients including Hitachi Design Division and Facebook. It’s been an amazing collaboration, with Shu’s comics going viral in my clients’ offices.

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A very urban, summer scene, with yukata sidewalk party, Odakyu train, and office tower

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
都市の夏景色かもしれない。歩道に浴衣パーティーや小田急線の電車やオフィスタワーが見えます。

Okinawa morning glory became dominant element of summer balcony garden

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夏のベランダで、琉球のアサガオが一番目立つ存在になっています。マンションと都市の間に、きれいなブラインドになってくれています。

When it was blooming prolifically, the Okinawa morning glory became an exterior screen between the apartment and the city outside. The shades of violet, red and blue are stunning.

Pedestrian overpass also passes under freeway in Shiodome

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汐留の歩道橋です。高速道路のせいで、階段を登って、階段を下って、階段を登って、階段を下りなければなりません。なぜそんな道があるでしょうか。

This pedestrian overpass, which dips below the freeway in Shiodome, is a hot mess. I often wonder why city planners value pedestrians and bicyclists so much less than private vehicles and trucks. This is not how I’d like to walk to work from the station.

Double Face condo billboard offers city and nature, in image only

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家の近くに、「ダブルフィイス」というビルが建てられています。看板のまんなかに、モデルさんがいて、背景の半分は建物で、もう半分には森があります。実際には、木は1つも植えないみたいです。ところで “double-faced” は英語で「偽善」という意味もあります。

I assume Double Face has no specific meaning in Japanese. It’s hard to imagine the phrase being used in marketing when confidence and reputation are at stake.

Near my house is another new construction, Double Face in katakana or just Face Face in English. The concept is city and nature. But from what I see the building itself will contribute almost zero natural benefits to the sidewalk or community. Not even a single tree outside the mid-rise building. Again, I can sort of understand the concept, but the execution as a billboard and as a property leave much to be desired.

At this point in construction, what they’re offering the public is a vending machine, one of many drink machines along this boulevard.

Kitchen, balcony, and city in one frame, plus new summer fig tree

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この視点から、台所やベランダや都市景色が枠のなかに見えます。前景には、今年の夏に買ったイチジクがあります。

This is the view from one end of our narrow balcony to the other, facing east towards Shinjuku. The twin towers are the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, and to the right is the Park Hyatt hotel from the movie Lost in Translation. In the foreground is the fig tree, a new addition this summer.

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Come on a tanuki adventure with us at Shibaura House next Tuesday

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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。
今回SHIBAURA HOUSEで開催するイベントでは、こんなことを一緒に考えます:都市に、動物は必要でしょうか。野生で予測できないものは、都市の生活に大事でしょうか。
一緒にちょっと冒険してみましょう。参加費は無料。イベントはランチタイムに開催します、自分のお弁当を持ってきてください。

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.

Photographs and slides from Shibaura House’s Community Herb Garden event

先日の芝浦ハウスコミュニティー・ハーブ・ガーデンのプレゼンをアップロードしました。都市の初心者の方たちが植木鉢でハーブを育てることを応援します。東京で、ハーブは育てやすいので、和風と洋風の料理、カクテル、お茶、香り、そして、蝶の来る場所を作れます。

I’ve posted the photographs and slides from my recent talk at Shibaura House‘s Community Herb Garden event. My purpose was to encourage city residents to plant herbs because they are easy to grow and have many uses (culinary, cocktails, tea, scent, butterfly attractors).

City fishing next to Ichigaya station

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釣り堀でのんびりやっている人が市ヶ谷ホームから見えます。釣りと電車の対照がきれいですね。

Day and night you can see people fishing in these stocked ponds on the Outer Moat, across from Ichigaya station. The contrast between the busy transit corridor, the beautiful moat, and the leisurely city fishers is enchanting.

Morning glory on green curtain, with cityscape in background

最近、たくさんフィルムの写真をとっています。マクロレンズを使うと、ベランダのジャングルで特定の要素が見えます。これは、琉球アサガオです。背景に、都庁やハイヤットやオペシティがあります。ところで、「シティ」という日本語の発音はとても変です。

Recently I am taking a lot of film photos, and recently I bought a macro lens which allows me to focus on specific elements of the jungle that my balcony is becoming. This is Okinawa morning glory, the mainstay of our green curtain.

In the background you can see the twin towers of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Hyatt hotel from Lost in Translation, and the Opera City building. The last building always makes me laugh because the Japanese pronunciation is “opera shitty.”

Summer festivals bring a country feeling to Tokyo

東京の夏の祭りが大好きです。地域の一体感と神聖な感じを体験できます。東京なのに、田舎の村にいる感じがします。

I am a huge fan of Tokyo’s summer festivals. Sacred and community-based, these festivals involve shrine carrying, chanting, grunting, drums, flutes, and bells, ritual clothing, and close proximity between neighbors.

Sidewalk rice is decorative and brings a little country to the city

夏の歩道で稲を育てています。田舎の気分を都市で味わえます。

Growing rice in buckets on the sidewalk isn’t likely to put any rice farmers out of business. Still, it’s a lovely sight in Tokyo during the summer, and brings a country feeling into the hard-surfaced city.

Lotus 149 publishes my photos of urban rice farming in Tokyo

「Lotus』というイタリアの雑誌に私の東京の農園の写真が二つでました。パソナのロビーの田んぼ銀座農園の空き地の田んぼの写真が選ばれました。「Lotus』には素敵な建築のプロジェクットがたくさんのっています。四角いかたちです。もっと東京のグリーンスペースを雑誌に紹介したいです。

Lotus Editorial kindly sent me a copy of Lotus 149, titled Lotus in the Field, which explores the relations with the countryside. Lotus is a beautifully designed, Italian-English bilingual architecture quarterly from Milan.

Lotus 149 includes two of my urban agriculture photographs: one of Pasona’s corporate lobby rice field, the other an outdoor, temporary rice field in Ginza that took advantage of an empty lot between demolition and new construction.

I was happy to see that my Pasona photograph extends into a second page, and I like how the image shows a more ambivalent side of the project than the text and photos provided by the architects and corporation. Especially with the post-3.11 energy shortages after the nuke plants have been suspended, creating a show garden with grow lights looks less than utopian.

You can see the original 2009 and 2010 posts on Tokyo Green Space that inspired Lotus 149: about Pasona, and about Ginza Farm.

Tokyo strawberries, with promise of fruit in all four seasons

ホームセンターで白花がいっぱい咲いているイチゴを買いました。「東京いちご」という名前は面白いです。4分の1の日本人は東京に住んでいるから、都市のために植物も野菜も開発して売り出すことは賢いと思います。このイチゴは四季に実をつけるそうです。ベランダのイチゴを食べたいです。

Recently I picked up strawberries from the home center, full of pretty white flowers. They were less than $2 each. I think it’s very interesting that they’re called “Tokyo strawberries.” In this urban country, it makes sense to develop and target plants, even vegetables, to city growers.

The label also boasts, “Pure Berry 2” with a registered trademark. But the biggest promise is strawberries in all four seasons. I am looking forward to my first balcony strawberry!