disaster

A rose named “hope” sounds cheesy but is actually a super-rose

lespoir_rose_balcony_nakano
説明どおり、レスポワールというバラは東京のベランダで育てやすかったです。家に、すごく元気になりました。香りもいいです。

In May, I went to the “home center” (Nakano Shimachu) and bought the most expensive rose (about US$ 30). It’s name is L’Espoir, or Hope. It scores a perfect 5 in every attribute: grows well in pots, size of flower, scent, bloom frequency, and ease of growing. It’s also dedicated to the Tohoku March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

I am generally skeptical of industrial gardening, but I gave Hope a try. It turned out great on the 10th floor balcony. It may not have grown that tall, but it required no pesticide and bloomed often. I love the scent. To me, scent is essential in roses.

lespoir_rose_balcony_nakano_label lespoir_rose2_balcony_nakano_label

Tokyo Station peeking out from scaffolding

足場の上に、東京駅が見えます。東京駅はめずらしい明治の建物です。そして、最上級の交通機関の象徴でもあります。対照的に、新宿駅のほうがもっと人に使われますけれど、正面玄関がありません。修復終了のパーティーはあるのでしょうか? 2014年の100周年の祝賀会に行きたいです。

I love how the very top of Tokyo Station is now visible above the scaffolding. An incredibly efficient urban transportation system makes Tokyo a green city free of auto dependence and isolation. In a city repeatedly destroyed by disasters and constantly in the process of being rebuilt, the 97 year old Tokyo Station is a rare public building from the Meiji era.

I am excited to see the restoration complete, and to experience the grandeur of this central node in Tokyo and Japan’s rail system. Shinjuku Station supports more people per day (over 2.5 million), but like much of Tokyo it is visually a non-place: three department stores from the 1960s through 1980s, sprawling underground passageways, and no particular front or main entrance.

Here’s what Tokyo Station looked like in 2007, courtesy of 663highland. Will there be a party when the project is complete? Or a centennial celebration?

First sakura after great earthquake

井ノ頭公園が花見を中止するというのは、本当でしょうか。先が見えないので、みんなが不安で落ち着かないようです。

My friend Matt sent me this intricate sakura weather map: it shows the updated forecast for the start of cherry blossoms across the Japanese archipelago. Even if you can’t read Japanese, it’s impressive to see how much weather forecasting amplifies cherry blossom season.

Today I also heard from Twitter’s @Matt_Alt that there are big signs at Inokashira park Big asking visitors to refrain from holding cherry blossom viewing parties there. This is one of Tokyo’s most famous parks, and one of the most popular places for young people to celebrate spring with all night and all day drinking parties.

It’s now just over two weeks after the horrific natural and man-made disaster that began with the East Japan great earthquake. With looming energy shortages, national mourning for the dead, and continued fears about nuclear fallout, Tokyo life will not be the same. Yet it is still impossible to fully know what will emerge in the coming months and years.

Will these events increase or reverse Japan’s hyper-urbanization? How will people respond to new concerns about food and water safety? Can the government and industry regain trust and provide leadership? How can civil society contribute to rebuilding the country and restoring Japan’s international reputation?

And can public spaces and local businesses flourish in a time of anxiety and uncertainty?

Edge between new road and post-war past

新しい道と古い道が出会う場所。

New town and old cities meet at this intersection.

On Linus Yng’s @ArchitourTokyo Western Tokyo bike exploration, the second stop was a fascinating corner. A wide and modern road (4 lanes, sidewalks)- Inokashira Dori (井の頭道り)- from the skyscraper district of Nishi Shinjuku meets a major ring road (6 lanes, sidewalks)- Kan-nana Dori (環七道り). The modern road dead ends into a narrow one-way street full of old sheds that must have housed many small businesses and residences in the post-war era.

I was fascinated by Linus’ explanation of how planning created these large roadways, and paradoxically preserves old neighborhoods on the edge. Although many maps show the road continuing through this neighborhood, Izumi (和泉名店街), the money and priority must have become exhausted. What you see instead is a neighborhood preserved for decades because no one will invest in improving or replacing buildings that are in a right-of-way of a possible, future major road.

In addition to the lane that runs in the center of the planned new roadway, Linus also pointed out the 10 to 15 story buildings that extend to the edge of where the road might one day be. In much of Tokyo, new buildings along major roads are often granted heights up to 15 stories, whereas the buildings behind them remain low. Tsukamoto Yoshiharu of Atelier Bow-Wow calls this the “cream puff pastry” of Tokyo urban planning, and explains that one function of these modern buildings, built to new standards, along the major roads is to provide a firebreak in this disaster-prone city.

It is amazing that for the width of the proposed road, the neighborhood is a time capsule of a Japan that was rebuilding itself rapidly after the war. I’d like to go back and explore more about who is still living there, what businesses thrived in the post-war period, and what creative re-use may be happening with these provisional buildings that were never intended to last this long.

UPDATE: Linus shared his excellent photos of this intersection with me later.