dogwood

Mature dogwood beautifies old Showa-era building in Tamchi

雨の日の田町、ハナミズキが昭和の建物をもっときれいに見せています。隣の建物が今はコインパーキングになってしまいました。@Shibaura House の岩中さんと散歩して、来月のフィールドワークのワークショップの準備をしました。

On a wet day in Tamachi, this mature dogwood beautifies a Showa era building. The building next door has been replaced with coin parking. I took a long walk with Iwanaka-san of Shibaura House to prepare for next month’s “field work” workshop on green mapping.

Shinjuku Gyoen is gorgeous in spring. So many trees blooming!

ピークの季節の前にも、新宿御苑をカメラマンやノンビリ歩いている人が多いです。前景に黄色の花が咲かせているサンシュユという木があります。池の反対側はピンク色の桜があります。

Even on a weekday before peak cherry blossom season, Shinjuku Gyoen has plenty of photographers and people strolling around the trees. The yellow flowers in the foreground are sanshuyu, a Northeast Asian dogwood that produces cherries and is used in Chinese medicine. I like the documentation and how the pond connects the yellow and pink blossoms.

Dogwoods turning red in early November

I have noticed this past week that dogwoods (ハナミズキ) are some of Tokyo’s earliest fall foliage. Today, this lane of dogwoods near the Higashi Koenji Metro station are fully red. Ginko and zelkovia will turn yellow and red weeks later. I love this colorful moment, and noticing how different trees turn colors and lose their leaves in sequence.

These photos were taken with an iPhone and filtered with the nostalgia-inducing effects of Instagram, which is suddenly all the rage with design and techies in Japan, the US, and Europe. Instagram is geared around public sharing, but what I like about this free app is that it improves the generally poor quality of iPhone photos by distressing the images and creating the illusions of analog imagery and the photos of our parents or grandparents.

Low res and low quality images suddenly look cool and meaningful. Instagram’s effects are particularly suited for documenting the temporality of fall foliage, while obscuring specific year, decade, and context of this annual spectacle.

Flowers and buildings

When I walk through Tokyo, I realize that the beauty of spring flowers, and plants in general, are increased by their juxtaposition with the built environment. There’s something about the context that makes urban nature more beautiful and more captivating.

Above are lilacs blooming on May 1 in Tokyo on Yasukuni Dori in Shinjuku, across the street from Isetan’s rainbow circular parking lot. Below are dogwood in full bloom in Higashi Koenji, with a 15 story apartment building behind the tree.

And at a different scale, there is the constant contrast between my potted balcony plants and the city that extends in every direction for as far as the eye can see.

Signs of spring

Tokyo has had a strange April. Last Friday there was hail. I was surprised to hear a squishy sound beneath my shoes. Will winter never end? Fortunately, it is now a bit warmer, and I managed to pot up all the small plants I bought for my balcony garden: columbine, two types of jasmine, some yellow button flowers, a clover, and a small purple green vine.

The cherry blossoms ended suddenly with the rain and wind: briefly, the trees are redder as just the flower stems remain, and then suddenly the trees start leafing out. As soon as cherry blossoms pass, dogwood opens up.

Tokyo has a lot of dogwood trees, which come from the mid-Atlantic of the United States. The tree represents a cultural exchange between nations, with Japan providing Washington D.C. with monumental cherry trees, and the United States offering Japan dogwood. It’s strange that many Tokyo residents do not know the origin or significance of dogwood trees. They remind me of my childhood in Baltimore.