escape

Escape by boat to nature sanctuary on the very far side of Tokyo

Round_window_Ogasawara_Maru

最近、東京から離れることを考えていました。3月に、小笠原の父島に旅行しました。交通は船だけで、25時間かかります。小笠原丸のデザインが好きです。逞しくて、効率的で、簡素です。

April 1 is the start of the business and school years in Japan. Recently my thoughts have turned to escaping the city, which I recently accomplished. What better than a long sea voyage to the remote island of Chichijima? Sub-tropical and isolated from continental evolution, Chichijima is part of the Ogasawara islands one thousand kilometers south of Tokyo. Administratively, they are part of Tokyo. Yet a far side of Tokyo removed from ordinary urban life.

Of the two options, we chose the 25 hour ferry boat from Hamamatsucho over the mega-cruise ship out of Yokohama. Given the amount of time in transit, the boat itself is a major element of visiting the islands. This large ship called Ogasawara Maru carries up to a thousand people as well as all supplies, cars, and even livestock for the few thousand inhabitants of this island group.

The design evokes Japanese efficiency and optimism of the 1980s, sturdy, reliable, with few frills and no luxuries. I love the dolphin artwork, and brass rails. Unfortunately, because of the weather and conditions, the captain’s tour was canceled on both directions.

dolphins_ogasawaramaru_ship

A tropical escape from Tokyo winter in Shinjuku Gyoen reflects park and clouds

new_greenhouse_shinjukugyoen

寒いときに、新宿御苑の新しい温室を勧めます。温室のなかで、熱帯の植物を楽しみながら、外の東京の風景を楽しめます。全部ガラス張りなので、外側に反射している風景もすてきです。

The best place to escape Tokyo’s winter is inside the new greenhouse in Shinjuku Gyoen. I love exploring all the tropical plants, and seeing the fall and winter park landscapes through the glass walls. From the outside, the building reflects the giant trees and clouds.

New greenhouse at Shinjuku Gyoen opens. A warm escape from winter.

新宿御苑に、新し温室が開けました。

An amazing, tropical place to spend a cold day. Yesterday, I enjoyed watching the park’s fall foliage through the enormous glass walls.

Long public path at Shinjuku Gyoen is an idyllic nature escape

新宿御苑の脇にある長い路はきれいです。木陰も小川もあります。夏は涼しいです。

It’s always fun to walk along this public path on the Shinjuku side of Shinjuku Gyoen. Shaded by tall trees, it’s a pleasant escape from the hard urban surfaces. There’s even a reconstructed creek to evoke the springs and rivers that used to flow naturally here.

How to entice tanuki “racoon dogs” to return to Tokyo

最近、東京ローカルフルーツのジェス(@jessmantell) とクリス(@a_small_lab) とタヌキが東京に来るタヌキの研究をしています。動物建築というコンテストに提案を送って、もうすぐ記事がオンライン出ます。この新しい研究所の名前は、「the Studio for Creative Revitalization of Tanuki Urban Manifestations, or S.C.R.O.T.U.M.」です。

渋谷で写真撮影をしました。タヌキが渋谷川から東京に入ってきます。東急グループの新しいヒカリエを訪れて、渋谷駅のDean & Delucca でコーヒーを飲みます。そして、サラリーマンに健康的な息抜きと逃避の方法を教えています。

Tanukis are real and mythic animals that once inhabited Tokyo, and are now primarily found as large ceramic statues outside local bars and restaurants. Tanukis are shape shifters, with a special superpower emanating from their floor-scraping scrotums.

My Tokyo Local Fruit co-instigators, Chris Berthelsen (of A Small Lab) and Jess Mantell (of Edoble), and I have been thinking about this subject through a contest submission for Animal Architecture and related articles to be published online soon. We’re calling our new research effort, the Studio for Creative Revitalization of Tanuki Urban Manifestations, or S.C.R.O.T.U.M.

We would like to encourage more urban human/non-human cohabitation, and are inspired by what a tanuki-friendly Tokyo would look and feel like. Here are some images from a recent photo shoot in Shibuya. Jess will add to the images to suggest new scenarios of interaction and play.

You could imagine tanuki entering the big city by river, and then interacting with the human inhabitants.

Tanuki visits Tokyu Corporation’s new Hikarie shopping complex, has a coffee at the Dean and Delucca outside Shibuya station, and encourages office workers to find healthier ways to relax and escape.

Shrine entrance invites tree lovers and prayers

自転車で日本語の学校に行く途中で、山手道路沿いにいつもこの階段を見ます。坂を登って、林と神社を訊ねたい。代々木八幡の神社に行ったことがありますか。

I bike to school on Yamate Dori, one of Tokyo’s modern ring roads. It’s currently under construction and rather ugly: a freeway underground, a 6 lane road on the surface, sidewalks torn up, new and mostly undistinguishable apartment buildings. On this ride from Nakano to Shibuya, one of the highlights is glimpsing the stairs leading up to this tree-filled shrine. I stopped and found out that it is Yoyogi-Hachiman shrine. I haven’t made it up the stairs yet, but it beckons as an inviting escape from the more functional, profane city racing by it.

Office landscape in front of Kajima headquarters

Office landscape in front of Kajima headquarters

Recently I visited construction company Kajima’s headquarters in Akasaka to learn more about their extraordinary biodiversity program, and was charmed by the miniature Japanese garden in front of the modernist building. One could criticize the excess of hardscape, but it does make the small traditional garden pop in a dramatic way.

Office landscape in front of Kajima headquarters

The perfectly pruned pines and arrangement around a “river” of pebbles and rock “mountains” makes a wonderful composition. Even the tallest trees are under 1 meter in this miniature dream landscape. While the environmental benefit is minimal, such stylized and well cared for nature creates a beauty that is unquantifiable and a momentary escape from urban life.

The contrast not only with the building but the surrounding neighborhood is extreme.

Office landscape in front of Kajima headquarters