Late crop of eggplants, red peppers, and daikon at Setagaya mini-farm



Viewed through a chain link fence, ripe eggplants and chile peppers are growing in a small farm between the road and some apartments. I enjoy seeing this farm on my bike ride to Nodai.

Dreaming of Mount Fuji on January 1

What will you dream about tonight?


A very cultured friend told me recently that Japanese celebrate 初夢 (hatsuyume) in addition to 初詣 (hatsumoude). At the very start of the new year, many Japanese visit local or famous shrines and temples to welcome the new year, a practice known as hatsumoude. Hatsuyume refers to the first dream of the new year, and many people wake up on January 2 trying to remember their dreams, which will reflect their fortune for the coming year.

The three luckiest dreams are Mount Fuji, hawk, and eggplant. This tradition dates to early Edo times. Have you ever dreamed of any of these? Will you be paying attention to your dream on the night of January 1, the first full night of the new year?

Home-grown eggplants in the middle of November


Home-grown eggplants are delicious! I am surprised they can be harvested so late in the year.

Just the other day, another foreigner was complaining that Japanese brag too much that they have four seasons. As if other countries don’t have that. While I agree that four seasons are not unique to Japan, I am amazed at how long spring and fall last here in Tokyo. Just a few days ago, I harvested my last three eggplants from the balcony garden. They were small and delicious in a spaghetti sauce I shared with a friend.

Cucumber and eggplants, too

I have experimented with all sorts of summer vegetables and fruit this year. The cucumbers grow incredibly fast (maybe 2 weeks from tiny shape to full size salad material). And like the watermelon, the vines grow easily up the railing and onto the green curtain net, providing a lot of shade. More slow growing, I harvest three eggplants.

Summer vegetables growing on the sidewalk

Walking down a large boulevard in Higashi Koenji, I was surprised to see these potted vegetables on the sidewalk. In addition to ginko trees, this street has many azaleas between the vehicle lanes and the pedestrian sidewalk. In this spot, there’s a semi-permanent row of pots. But these eggplants and tomatoes are an extra row that someone temporarily set up.

I love how seasonal and impromptu this vegetable gardening is. And, after almost two years in Japan, I am still startled that people can place plants they love on the street, and no one eats the vegetables, vandalizes, or steals the plants. A city that’s safe for vegetables and plants is one that also welcomes people.

Vegetable flowers on balcony garden contrast with parking lot below

I recently started a blog category called “Flowers and Buildings,” which focuses on the pleasure of experiencing plants in urban settings. I think that both the plants and the buildings are more beautiful when juxtaposed together. This post focuses on my balcony vegetable’s flowers, set against the parking lot below and the cityscape beyond.

The vegetables are from top to bottom: cucumber, eggplant, and watermelon. I will soon start tying the climbers to the balcony railing so that they become part of my summer green curtain. The single bonsai watermelon I saw last year in Ginza makes me hope that maybe I can eat one home-grown one this summer.

Balcony vegetable garden

This year I am experimenting with many types of vegetables and fruit in my balcony garden: kiwi, eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, bitter melon, corn, and lemon. Plus I have two types of thyme, parsley, rosemary, and basil.

These photos are from May when I planted the starter plants in these soft fabric pots and coconut husk soil. I added marigolds for color and possible bug and pest repellant. I am not sure what will happen with some of these vegetables: will they produce food? help shape the summer green curtain?

I like to think of these vegetables as experiments, as fun, and equal parts food and decoration. Almost all vegetables and fruit provide greenery, flowers, and, in the case of lemons, fragrance.

Fox face

Fox face

Fox face is a common fall plant that city residents bring into their homes. I was surprised that it does not require water, and will last two months. It is a fruit related to eggplant and tomato, and has the name “fox face” because of its resemblance to the animal. Some of the fruits have what appear to be ears, but not this one. It make a nice alternative to pumpkins.