Living in Tokyo you become used to the continual process of demolition and new construction. Not the ten or twenty year boom and bust cycles I’ve seen in San Francisco and New York City. Even in the perpetually shrinking Japanese economy, Tokyo continues to morph and grow. The photo is from the demolition of a post-war Showa house in Nakano, a residential neighborhood. It will undoubtedly be replaced with a multi-unit structure made of pre-fab materials and slightly customized, standard layouts.
Closer to my house, I’ve seen the local liquor seller vacate his main storefront, which was replaced by a brand new 7-Eleven in less than four weeks. I watched the incredibly fast work to the interior, modernizing a 1970s storefront into the faceless, placeless space of a convenience store. They also installed enormous heating and cooling structures on the roof. I was glad to see that the liquor store owner has retained an adjacent, closet-sized space for his liquor sales. He seems to enjoy interacting with the neighbors.
I was speechless when I first saw this craft project outside a local convenience store. Perched above a cardboard box is a tree of death, made of dozens of cigarette cartons and festooned with Christmas lights. Maybe it was meant to generate attention for tobacco purchases before the recent 40% tax increase. I wonder who came up with the idea: the local store manager? a clerk inspired by craft or commerce?
When I think of all the urban dead space, retail store fronts are a real lost opportunity. This one is special in that in addition to being a missed opportunity for plants and life, it actively promotes death. I am still surprised how Japan lags the advanced nations in curbing smoking.
A rare visit to Roppongi brought to my attention another death environment. This is a free and public “lounge” where you are invited to sit down and puff some tobacco while surrounded by branded ads. I am sure there’s plenty of money to be made in selling death, but it’s a disgrace to see public space devoted to this activity.
A day trip to Kamakura to visit a Hitachi environmental strategist turned up many delightful wildlife within Tokyo’s commuter shed. Hasedera Temple has an amazing garden on a steep hillside with views of the ocean. Several types of dragonflies were there, including this amazing red one.
Sunning themselves on lotus leaves were turtles.
Outside the temple, I was startled to see a swallow’s nest above a convenience store entrance. The young birds seemed unperturbed by people or commerce.
Equally ubiquitous were hawks, circling, squawking and apparently endangering beach picnics.
Main streets and smaller shopping streets in Tokyo residential neighborhoods are full of small businesses. It is interesting to see that many of these small businesses have potted flowers outside, on the sidewalk or the shop entrance that are updated seasonally. Is it personal passion, business beautification, or both?
Above is a plumbing supply store. Below a cleaners, and lastly a convenience store.