Our kitchen has sliding glass doors that open out to the balcony. By early summer, the green curtain and shrubs have filled out, providing some privacy and the feeling of a floating sky jungle. The plants make me feel at home.
My super-prolific friend Chris Berthelsen has released two small self-published stories. The first is “Child Scale” or “Rainy Day Treasures” about how Tokyo streets look, smell, and feel for kids. Chris’ writing, mappings, and photographs follows a rainy day walk to the local public bathhouse with a four year old. It’s a rich observation and reflection on play and creativity. The street is the ultimate shared space in our cities, for a variety of ages, walking and transit. After reading Child Scale, I’ll pay more attention to the “floorscape” than my usual rushing or daydreaming.
Child Scale is just $3.50. You get a 112 page download, with A5 print and screen resolution PDFs. The Huffington Post and Atlantic Cities have already referenced this digital booklet. It will be enjoyed by those wanting to think more about Tokyo, urbanism, children, play, and creativity.
The second booklet is by Chris’ son Tonka, who writes about his Tokyo Spider Research. It’s a 19 page booklet that examines spiders found inside and nearby a Tokyo apartment. Tonka’s handwritten notes and photographs provide a detailed document about some of the small creatures sharing our urban lives. The booklet is in Japanese and English, and will certainly inspire you to look more closely at the あimmediate environment around you. It’s just $2 for the download.
I am making a new flower pot series at Shiho ceramic studio. I was inspired by the texture and glazing of another student’s bowls, and wanted to create something simple.
The vertical lines on the right-side pot connect with the drainage channels on the bottom and also provide contrast and something to grip. The left-side pot was an experiment in removing material without compromising structural integrity. A fellow student suggested this would make a good candle holder.
After they’re baked the first time, I’ll apply the glaze. Usually I leave some parts unglazed so that you can see and feel the ceramic directly.
It’s a credit to the Shiho teachers that my amateur efforts turn out look more intentional and better designed than I am capable of. I like that they encourage me to do what I want, and yet somehow always ensure that my work turns out OK. That’s evidence of great teaching!
Riding the BART, the San Francisco Bay Area transit line, I was surprised to see this ad for mace, with the offer to get a 30% discount by typing in BART during the online check-out.
The idea that you can use a powerful chemical irritant to create a four meter wide personal space in public seems laughable in a dense city like Tokyo. Here, you can wear a face mask and maybe get a few extra centimeters of personal space as people may be afraid of influenza. To get 4 meters of space, you would have to smell very bad.
Are there other ways to feel safe in public? In the US, is it really OK to use mace when you are not being attacked and just want some extra breathing room?
When my friend Stokes told me about the wildness in Nishi Azabu Juban, I was somewhat incredulous. He was staying briefly at a childhood friend’s house there, and quickly discovered narrow lanes and uncultivated yards and odd spaces that he insisted on showing me. The neighborhood is in central Tokyo, and includes both very expensive homes alongside more modest, old timers’ residences.
In what must be a planner’s nightmare, late summer weeds are pushing out of cracked concrete steps, barely paved lanes lead to houses, and the urban forest seems ready to reclaim the land. There is something comforting to feel wildness in the center of the city, the impermanence of the built environment, and the power of the unplanned.