creek

This “value net” can be used on land and in creeks to capture insects and small creatures

value_net_kabutomushi_crayfish_atami

アメリカの子供たちはあまり虫とかをネットでつかまえません。このネットは、小川でも森でも使えます。たったの380円。楽しそうです。

Japanese kids love to use nets to capture small wildlife. This net can be used to capture kabuto mushi beetles on land, and also crayfish in creeks.

Long public path at Shinjuku Gyoen is an idyllic nature escape

新宿御苑の脇にある長い路はきれいです。木陰も小川もあります。夏は涼しいです。

It’s always fun to walk along this public path on the Shinjuku side of Shinjuku Gyoen. Shaded by tall trees, it’s a pleasant escape from the hard urban surfaces. There’s even a reconstructed creek to evoke the springs and rivers that used to flow naturally here.

Potted camellia brightens concrete patio dead space

普通だけれどもたくましい椿は、コンクリートのテラスに命を与えます。だれがそこに置いて、剪定しているのでしょうか。

I like how this very common and hardy camellia brings some life to a concrete patio in a Nakano back street. I wonder who placed it there and keeps it well pruned.

I can easily  imagine a jungle growing between these older commercial buildings, a living food alley with scent and maybe a small creek bed. As it is now, this space between buildings functions as a giant chute for capturing rainwater, which then travels many kilometers and must be processed, alongside sewage, before being released into Tokyo Bay.

At least someone working or living there is decorating and enjoying the space.

Studying firefly habitat in Gunma with a Tokyo middle school

東京農業大学の鈴木先生は東京の中学校でホタルの生息地を作る予定です。毎夏、先生と中学生は群馬県に行って、ホタルを観察して勉強します。今回、私も招待されました。

ホタルにはきれいな水と暗闇が必要です。鈴木先生によると、都市の生息地には社会的なデザインも要ります。学校のとなりのお寺や退職をした方たちのセンターも参加できます。

川場村に来て、中学生たちは田んぼの草むしりをして、小さい川でカニとカエルを観察しました。都市の子供なのに、中学生たちは本当に勇気があります。

夜に、ゲンジボタルとヘイケボタルを見ました。林と田んぼのそばにはホタルがいっぱいいます。

なかのビレジ」というホテルに泊まりました。内側は和風モダンで、外側は山の一部 みたいです。湯名な坂倉建築研究所はホテルを作りました。

川場村では、たくさんリンゴが育っています。最近、ブルーベリーも育っています。

Tokyo University of Agriculture Professor Suzuki is planning a firefly habitat at a junior high school. Each year, teachers and students from the Tokyo school visit Gunma to study fireflies. This year I was also invited.

Fireflies need clean water and darkness. According to Professor Suzuki, creating habitat in the city also requires a “social design.” The temple, cemetary, and senior center near the school are also invited to participate.

When we arrived at Kawaba-mura, the school girls weeded a rice field and played with frogs and crabs in the creek. Even though they are city kids, the students are very brave.

At night, we saw Genji fireflies and Heiki fireflies. There are a lot of fireflies on the edge between the forest and the rice field.

We stayed at a hotel called “Nakano Village” which on the inside is Japanese modern style, and on the outside the building looks like part of the hillside. It was designed by the famous Sakakura Associates.

Kawaba mura has many apple orchards, and recently they are also growing blueberries.

The trip made me think of the following:

  • How can gardens be created in multiple connected sites?
  • How can all city and country kids learn about each other’s environments and lives?
  • How can cities begin to value darkness as essential to their vitality?
  • How can kids and adults create habitat and support wildlife where they study, work, play, and live?

May is a great time for roses around Tokyo

どのバラにも香りがあるべきだと思います。けれども、香りがなくても、バラを見たら、いつも元気にならずにはいられない。

I have seen some lovely roses walking in Tokyo recently. The red one above is from the border between Sakuragaoka 桜丘町 and Uguisudani 鶯谷町, a leafy upscale neighborhood ten minutes from the world famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing (called scramble, スクランブル in Japanese). I like how this red rose has escaped a private garden and is now attaching itself to the street mirror meant to prevent collisions.

The yellow rose is from a house in Nakano, near a pedestrian walkway built on an old creek. I wish all roses had fragrance, but whenever you see roses, it is hard not to feel cheerful.

Tree lined walking path in Shinjuku is magical

There are many small creeks in Tokyo that have been turned into pedestrian paths. In my neighborhood, they are modestly landscaped. In Shinjuku, there’s Shinjuku Yuhodo Koen Shiki no Machi (新宿遊歩道公園四季の道), an amazing green corridor with mature trees between the department stores of San Chome, Hanazono Shrine, the packed bars of Golden Gai, and Kabukicho.

Oddly, my very detailed Tokyo City Atlas does not include the path’s name. It’s easy to miss it, but once inside it feels like a magical passageway, full of life during the day and at night. Green corridors take up minimal space, and are perhaps more useful than small parks since provide a path between places.

New creek in public area of Shinjuku Gyoen

Just in time for hot and humid summer, Shinjuku Gyoen has opened a newly planted mini-creek along the edge of this fantastic park. Shinjuku Gyoen is one of my favorite gardens in central Tokyo, but its small entrance fee makes it seem like more of an outing than just a casual visit. That’s what makes the small edge park running along the northern side (by Shinjuku 1-chome) so wonderful.

The path extends about a kilometer between the Shinjuku gate and the Okido gate. The mini-creek is clearly artificial, and surrounded by new plantings. Signage explains some connection to Edo history. If you are in the neighborhood, I highly recommend walking through this shady path and enjoying the running water. Be warned, however, that the path, like the park, closes at 4:30 pm.

The other half of the walkway has not been renovated. However, since it’s closer to the business district, you often see business people enjoying this quiet space or just taking a break from the office.