convenience

Convenience store landscape lights up the evening with coconut palm tree

たくさんの外国人は、日本のデザインが上品でシンプルだと信じています。天皇陛下の別荘がある葉山という町で、コンビニの前にある大きい電気のヤシの木を見ました。

Everyone says how Hayama is where the Emperor has a summer home. No one mentions the Hayama Lawson’s giant, light-up coconut tree. Public landscapes reveal that design in Japan is often neither minimal nor elegant.

7-Eleven quickly replaces light bulbs at local store

セブン・イレブンがすばやく電球を変えています。節電のために、LEDは大切です。百万人以上が新しい照明を見ることができるでしょう。この近所の店では、施工中なのに、店舗は営業しています。LEDのほうがきれいだと思いますか?

It’s very impressive how quickly 7-Eleven can install new lighting. LEDs are a huge shift in lighting, and this very prominent example will influence millions of consumers.

Many companies have agreed to large energy reductions, up to 20 and 25 percent. I noticed this van outside my local 7-Eleven yesterday. They changed the store’s lighting to LEDs without closing the business. Another store I passed yesterday in western Tokyo was also updated. I wonder how soon all the 7-Elevens will be using these very low energy lights.

I think the new strips of small lights produce a more pleasant light than the old fluorescent tubes. What do you think?

Providing a temporary home for the gods in Tokyo: Shimekazari and Kadomatsu for the New Year

東京のお正月の時だけですが、神様を迎え入れます.

Tokyo residents and small businesses welcome the gods in temporary homes built of bamboo, pine, and plum blossoms.

I love how the best ones are hand-crafted from pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms. They are intended to be temporary homes for the Shinto gods (kami, 神様). I like the idea that you can create a temporary house for the gods to visit at new year. The three heights of the kamomastu represent heaven, humanity, and earth- in descending order. The shimekazari are smaller, with Shinto rope holding charms such as oranges, folded paper, rice straw, and ferns.

Shimekazari (標飾り) and Kadomatsu (門松) are traditional New Year’s ornaments placed on walls and on the sidewalks outside shops and homes. The city simultaneously empties of people and fills with physical connections to mountains and spirits. This year I took photos of the widest variety I could find in the areas I visit on typical days: on a car bumper, outside a sento, next to a wall of cigarette advertisements, on a busy boulevard, outside a barbershop, pachinko parlor, 24 hour convenience store, and a department store.

After the holiday, these decorations should be burned at a shrine. By mid-January, they are already a faded memory.

See more photos after the jump.

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Wildness in unused land by rail tracks

I have been thinking about the urban corridors and the distributed real estate that connect city people literally and experientially. Everything from rail lines that take us where we are going to convenience stores that make us feel that we are in the same place no matter where we are. Rail companies and retail chains own or operate so much real estate to make them second only to governments in terms of land ownership and possibilities for remaking our environment.

I love the chaotic, multi-directional rail lines in Yoyogi- two sets of elevated lines and street-grade lines taking traffic from Shinjuku to other parts of Tokyo, towns and resorts to the west, and across Japan. As a pedestrian, the rail crossings slow down your walk and make you aware of the millions of people circulating in Tokyo.

I’ve blogged before about the cool wildflowers with some unplanned cultivation on the sides of the tracks. The rail companies must be concerned about safety, including keeping neighbors safe and also minimizing garbage on the tracks. Yet it’s great that this land exists in a semi-wild state, and cool that it’s so accessible in Yoyogi. I wonder what further uses the lands beside rail tracks and stations could have in cities, suburbs, and countryside. Wildlife habitat, small farms, recreation, bee hives, or other uses.

 

Bonsais displayed on sidewalk and street

I love how this collection of bonsais sits on recycled containers (air conditioning covers?) extending from the sidewalk into the street. The ability to share valuable and mobile plants in Tokyo public spaces continues to impress me. I also love the recycling, and the ingenuity of using the inside of the platform for storage. This collection sits across the street from the Tokyo University Botanic Garden in Bunkyo, and next door to the convenience store that handles the ticket sales.

Semi-wild, semi-cultivated space in Yoyogi

I noticed this interesting semi-wild, semi-cultivated space alongside a busy Yoyogi road and in between two train tracks, an elevated overpass, and a convenience store. It shows you what minimal effort and Tokyo’s abundant rain can do to create a space that is lush and full of summer flowers. I like the mix of wildness and anonymous stewardship. The results are such a contrast with poorly organized city efforts like this Shibuya Greening Project, documented by Chris on Tokyo DIY Gardening, which seem doomed to rapid failure.

Quoted in San Francisco Chronicle article about high speed rail

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted me about what California can learn from Japan’s high speed rail. Japan’s rail success is not just about traveling quickly between cities, but the convenience and efficiency of city transit and car-free living.