Edo

My interview about a new waterfront high-rise is now online and in many free real estate magazines distributed around Tokyo’s stations

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最近、芝浦についての私のインタビューが出ました。この三井不動産のプロジェクトは、住宅と同時に公共の公園も作り、新い住人と今住んでいる住人とのコミュニティーを作ろうとしています。画期的な計画だと思います。緑と水は人をつなげられます。

In August, I began working with Mitsui Real Estate, Recruit, and a small NGO to introduce a new luxury high-rise residential tower in Shibaura, a less known waterfront area between Shinagawa and Hamamatsucho. It’s near where the base of Rainbow Bridge is located.

In this online interview (in Japanese) and in real estate brochures distributed around Tokyo, I relate my experience working in the neighborhood at Shibaura House, where I led gardening and fieldwork workshops for locals and international visitors, adults and small children.

The new tower, which is just now breaking ground, contributes to the restoration of Edo-era canals by creating a public waterfront park. This park contributes to the developer’s goal of creating a resilient community that includes new and existing residents. Providing greater access to the waterfront also restores a vital part of Tokyo’s history that was neglected in the 20th century.

This Edo morning glory is white with pink veins

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ベランダの江戸のアサガオは白色で、ピンクの線は静脈みたいです。8月の真夏。

Taken in mid-summer. This is the end of the summer balcony detail series.

Purple Edo morning glory is elegant and short-lived

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琉球アサガオより、江戸アサガオの開花期のほうが短いです。この紫色の花はほとんど枯れています。

The Edo morning glory doesn’t have a long season like the perennial Okinawa version. You can see this bloom is already starting to wither.

Reports of tanuki traveling down river from the woodlands towards the commercial center

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タヌキさんは、森から東京に移動していると言われています。ソーシャルメディアに、この江戸時代に作られた玉川上水の写真が出てきました。ママチャリと古いピンク色のフィーチャフォンしかありませんが、友達ができるでしょうか。

Some say that tanuki is traveling down river from his woodland sanctuary in the direction of central Tokyo. On a social media site, tanuki can be seen next to the Tamagawa josui, a canal built for the great Edo city hundreds of years ago. Can he make friends, if his only tools are a mama-chari and an antique, pink “feature phone”?

Recreating Edo style in Tokyo Station food shop

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駅弁の店は、江戸時代の感じを作っています。

From shop staff uniform to packaging, this “ekiben” shop in Tokyo Station does a great job of evoking Edo history for today’s train travelers.

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Sky Tree at night, with willow tree in foreground

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浅草から、柳とスカイツリーが一緒に見えます。

Viewed from Asakusa, not only is Sky Tree bigger, but you can see more details of the lighting scheme.  From Nakano, you hardly notice the blue light, and the more subtle red trim. I also like how the willow references Tokyo’s Edo past, and Sky Tree, although newly built, appears to be a 1960s’ vision of the future.

Domesticated Mount Fuji in today’s Edo

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江戸時代から、富士山と都市は一緒にイメージされています。最近、富士山の噴火に関する記事が多いですね。

Recently, there have been several reports that Mount Fuji may erupt and cause an earthquake, or vice versa. What I love about this giant volcano is its utterly domestic and urban nature. Today’s urban views, completely with laundry drying, are an extension of hundreds of years of Edo visual representation.

A long line waits at shrine to give an offering at festival

神社の献金を上げるのために、待っている人が多いです。大宮八幡というきれいな神社に、夫は子供のときに、よく行きました。杉並区の善福寺川の隣です

Omiya Hachiman shrine is near where my husband grew up in Suginami ward. It’s also next to a beautiful green corridor that follows the Zenpukuji river.  I love the elegant building, and all the decorations including the purple cloth with Edo crests, the red and white stripes, the rope and lightning bolts, and the big lanterns.

Elegant ladies dancing on the street at Shinto festival in Shiba

お祭りのときに、素敵な着物を着たおばあさんが、路上で踊っています。友だちのバスと、9月の芝のお祭りに行きました。

On a wide boulevard normally devoted to multi-lane auto traffic, nothing could be more beautiful than the site of elegant ladies in matching kimonos and hats dancing in synchronized movements. The summer and fall Shinto festivals transform business Tokyo into a series of village parties evoking an agrarian culture rarely sensed inside the megalopolis.

Below are photos from the Shiba matsuri. The sub-group near my friend Bas’ home displayed photos from the 1945 festival, just a month after the end of the war in which the entire neighborhood and much of Tokyo was burnt to the ground. The last photo shows a man who is both telling stories and selling bananas, a continuation of an Edo-era festival character.

In the photos you can see how on a special holiday, the streets, overpasses, convenience stores, and other mundane urban spaces are transformed into a very social and well dressed public environment.

Dramatic view down Ome Kaido towards Nakano Sakaue

江戸時代に作られた青梅街道は、とてもモダンになりました。背が高いビルがある中野坂上です。

I love the dramatic clouds, and how Nakano Sakaue beams with light and activity. The building in the southwest corner of the main intersection has an awesome, transparent erector-set spine in the middle of two office columns.

Ome Kaido is one of west Tokyo’s oldest and longest streets. In its current incarnation, it is six auto lanes wide and the fastest route between Shinjuku and Ogikubo. Underneath is the Marunouchi Metro line.

Edo modern at Hamarikyu garden

オランダから来た建築家や都市研究者による「成長後都市の生活」についてのワークショップのために、最近、浜離宮庭園に行きました。江戸時代とモダンが混ざっています。

Recently I brought 28 participants of the Dutch-Tokyo Still City workshop on “post-growth” urban life to Hamarikyu garden. This photo captures the simultaneity of activities inside and outside the garden: Edo-style pruning of pine trees, city dwellers enjoying traditional tea, port and luxury housing structures, even an incinerator chimney.

Morning glory adds natural curtain to balcony apartment

毎年この琉球アサガオは狭いベランダにきれいな色と影を作ってくれます。プライベートな空間ができます。

In mid-summer, the morning glory provides color, shade, and privacy on my one meter wide (3 feet) apartment balcony. The smaller jasmine leaves provide a nice contrast. Also on my green curtain are Edo morning glory (vs the Okinawa one above) and cucumber.

Stone wall and giant trees offer rare glimpse into past

大きい木の影の下で、この芝公園の壁は江戸時代の建築を思い出させます。

This one stretch of wall at Shiba Koen, with the towering trees above it, provides a rare glimpse into Tokyo’s architectural past.

Ginkos connect an old street with decades of layers

青梅街道は江戸時代からある道で、昔ここに農園がありました。今はイチョウの木がたくさんの種類の建物をつないでいます。廃墟化した戦後の建物や商業用の建物や住宅やさらには軽工業のビルがあります。

Ome Kaido is a large boulevard in my neighborhood that dates to Edo times when this area was largely fields. I like how the ginko trees provide a unifying element to a heterogenous streetscape of  abandoned post-war buildings mixed with newer commercial, residential and even light industrial buildings from every decade since.

Directly across the street from this corner is a ten story office building. I noticed the roof-top sports facility years before I recognized the logo at the entrance that marks it as the headquarters of one of Japan’s leading adult content companies.