If you look carefully, you can see there are five different palm trees in this photograph.
San Francisco is often windy and cool. Despite the fact that palms thrive in many cool climates, somehow seeing them gives us the illusion of being somewhere warmer and exotic.
Beyond my garden, the old car dealership and repair shop have been torn down and replaced with luxury housing and a Whole Foods. The top floor apartments will rent for over $8,000 per month.
One of the unexpected pleasures of visiting Odaiba was exploring the close-knit community of exotic pet owners on the lawn just across from the artificial beach. We met an enormous Ethiopian turtle and two families of prairie dogs.
I confess that my joy for growing plants does not confer any insight into pet ownership. I personally prefer plants over animals when it comes to extra-species cohabitation. Still, I was amazed at the owners’ love for their pets and also the public spectacle they create. The pets are both extra-human companions and also intermediaries for meeting strangers of all ages.
On the north side of Shimokitazawa, there is a Hawaiian restaurant with palm trees that are unusual for Tokyo. The tall palm tree with a silver trunk is a Queen Palm, syagrus romanzoffiana, native to woodland Brazil and Argentina and very common in San Francisco and other cold climates. It looks somewhat like a coconut palm.
The restaurant is clearly using these gorgeous palms– along with tiki torches and up-lights lit even during the day, a water fountain, and a wood porch extending to the street– as signifiers of exotic and distant islands. The effect is rather surprising and a pleasant contrast from the neighborhood’s narrow and crowded streets with few real street trees.
The trees look very healthy. I wonder if the restaurant provides special protection in the winter. The small palm tree is also very appealing. It is a Pindo Palm, or butia capitata, native to Brazil and Uruguay. Since it is hardy to 9C (15F), it seems well suited to Tokyo.
Last month I visited Okayama to see Korakuen garden on a trip that also included Inujima in the Seto Inland Sea, Kurashiki, Awaji-shima and Kobe. Okayama is a modern city with wide boulevards and tons of automobile traffic. Still, I was struck by two improbable plant and fountain installations.
Above is a double pygmy date palm growing under lights in an underground passageway. This barren space is at a major intersection and is the only way to get from the tram to the sidewalk (en route to Korakuen garden). Grow lights are environmentally questionable, but adding exotic plant life in a dramatic and futuristic setting certainly brightens this subterranean space.
Maybe it is because of my unfamiliarity with 1970s Japan, but I was struck by this flower-shaped fountain outside of Okayama’s main rail and Shinkansen station. Friends told me that it is a common civic adornment. Still, I like the theatrical and exaggerated floral shape.