decorate

Tea cup balconies and giant chef’s head decorate entrance to Kappabashi, Tokyo’s Kitchen Town

cups_kappabashi

合羽橋を知っていますか。台所に必要なものが何でもあります。最近フライパンを買いました。大きなシェフの頭とベランダのカップが面白いと思いませんか?

Between Asakusa and Ueno is Kappabashi, or Kitchen Town, a great place to buy everything from pots and pans to kitchenware and even the plastic foods restaurants use to advertise their menus outside. I’d seen the giant chef’s head online, but was completely surprised by the red, white and blue teacup balconies across the street and next to the police box.

chef_kappabashi

Atami, a nearby onsen town uses nature characters to appeal to tourists

bender_atami_cartoon_sign

熱海で、自然をモチーフにしたキャラが観光客を呼ぼうとしています。新幹線で、東京から一時間未満で来れます。車のない若い人を引き寄せて、町づくりができるでしょうか。

These woodchucks with their ice cream cones and hair ribbons are irresistible. I also like the heavily shadowed angel fish which decorates a car parking tower also sponsored by “Happy & Sunlight” pachinko. With the ease of public transportation from Tokyo, I imagine Atami is ripe for reinvention for the post-automobile young people.

atami_parking_tower_happy_sunlight_shading

Insect skirt made of rice stalks decorates pine trees at traditional Japanese gardens

insect_skirt_hamarikyu_pine

日本庭園で見かける、こも巻きという藁の腹巻きは、季節を思わせる、きれいな手法ですが、実際は、松を守ることに効果的じゃないそうです。悪い虫を食べる良い虫も駆除してしまうからです。皇居の庭では、この手法は、もう使わないそうです。

This rice stalk skirt is a beautiful and seasonal Japanese garden craft. The intent is to naturally attract and remove harmful insects, although now it seems that some famous gardens no longer use it because it traps both harmful and beneficial insects.

A gathering of tanukis and other animals inside Yurakucho station

.@jessmantellと@a_small_labと「動物建築」の打ち合わせの後で、有楽町駅でタヌキの集まりを発見して、楽しかったです。日常の風景を変えられる自由が、東京の働くひとにも住民にもあります。

After an “animal architecture” work meeting with @jessmantell and @a_small_lab, it was a fun surprise to see this gathering of tanukis and their frog and turtle friends in the Yurakucho station.

It’s not uncommon to spot plants and flowers in the Tokyo train and subway stations that appear to be the work of staff seeking to cheer up their environment, even their bath rooms.

I like seeing how Tokyo workers, along with residents, have such freedom to decorate and improve their everyday landscapes.

Owner’s bonsai decorates Omotesando Koffee rustic cafe

この素敵な盆栽はOmotesando Koffeeのオーナが作った作品です。コケが特に元気そうです。表参道に来た時はいつもこの美味しいコーヒーを飲んで、昭和モダンふうのインテリアと庭を楽しみながら、バリスタと話して行きます。

This beautiful bonsai was decorating the very chic Omotesando Koffee shop. The cafe is a modern cube inside a Showa house with a cozy front garden. The very cheerful barista explained that the owner made this bonsai himself. I like how the bonsai looks next to the cappuccino and the aged wood of the house and cupboard. The moss is especially lush and lovely.

Tanemaki project in Japan this month brings Dutch creativity to Tohoku

アムステルダムで住んでいる友だちは今月、日本で “tanemaki project”(種まきプロジェクト)をしています (@tanemaki2011) 。チューリップとパンケーキのワークショップを行います。寄付金付きを集めて、東北の仮設学校を飾ります。

My Amsterdam-based friends Hiyoko and Mark are in Japan this month developing their Tanemaki (planting) project (twitter @tanemaki2011). Hiyoko is a superb illustrator, and she’s organizing events to support decorating a temporary school in Tohoku. Last week they led a fun two-day tulip workshop at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, and this Saturday will be a pancake-making event with Mammoth School. It’s great to see them developing connections between Japan and the Netherlands, which have a special and long relation.

(Image: Hiyoko Imai).

Furin & chandelier decorate homeless camp in Shibuya

風鈴がホームレスの家を飾っています。宮下公園の下、渋谷スランブルの近くにあって、この家はとても整然としています。東京はいつも何かと隣り合わせになっていて、垂直な層になっています。例えば、半分公共の空間と空っぽの空間、デザインされた空間とデザインのない空間、住宅、スケードポード場、飲み屋、そしてバイクの駐車場。

A furin is a glass wind chime whose sound Japanese find cooling in summer; something about glass and metal striking. I was amazed to see this domestic symbol, along with a white chandelier (below), decorating two homes in this long row of wood and blue tarp cubes sheltering the homeless. (The furin is just to the right of the rolled up bamboo used to screen door).

I am struck by how incredibly orderly these living structures are, and how on a warm day when you gaze inside, the homes seem orderly and common place: tidy kitchens, matt floors, shelves and storage, on a scale just slightly smaller than what most Tokyo-ites live in.

This long alley of make-shift homes is just below Miyashita Park that paces the Yamanote line for a fe blocks. It’s just past Nonbei Yokocho and near the center of Shibuya. There was controversy over gentrification and corporate funding for city resources when the city accepted Nike sponsorship to renovate the park with design by Atelier Bow Wow. It seems the homeless merely migrated to the area just below the fenced-in skate park and fusball court.

Now it is a typically Tokyo close juxtaposition of semi-public and vacant space, design and non-design, and living, sports, drinking, and parking spaces.

Decorating construction sites with plants

Construction sites in Japan, unlike in the United States, are almost always concealed behind shiny white walls. Recently, I have noticed more and more of these temporary walls being decorated with plants.

Above, three simple flower pots seem like a small an and informal gesture. Below, ivy is built into the wall itself. Somehow, given the humbleness of the plant material and scale, the less designed plants seem more generous and heart-felt. What do you think?

The first photo is from a development called Nakano Twin Mark Towers. A short while after taking the photo, I noticed a hand-made sign on the back alley complaining about its massive scale: a residential tower that will be 29 stories high, at least twice as high as any neighboring building on the south side of the station. I am surprised by its height, and also wonder whether the developers will succeed in finding such a luxurious clientele in this rather humble residential area. Below is a developer’s image from the website.

Hanging plant decorates fence in front of empty lot

I like how someone has hung this simple plant, commonly called “wandering Jew” in the United States, on the fence in front of this empty lot. The lot has been empty for at least two years, a long time between demolition and reconstruction. The fence occasionally changes, but it was especially nice to see some plant decoration.

In the context shot below, you can also see that someone planted a simple hedge on the right side. My guess is that both of these plant interventions– one in the ground, the other secured by a simple S-hook– were created by neighbors who are getting tired of seeing the empty lot and its weeds. I admire this anonymous, small contribution to the neighborhood.