fence

Reusing old wood to build a new fence

reclaimed_wood_fence_clintonpark
古い木材を使って新しい塀を作りました。古い木造の感じがいいでしょう?

I’ve been wanting to rebuild my small back fence, and wondered about using recycled wood. Then I realized that I could reuse some of the old fence. Thanks to Kap, my amazing gardener, for rebuilding the fence using old materials turned from vertical planks to horizontal orientation.

Showa window visible through the fruit trees

showa_house_trees_from_path_nakano

歩行者路で、昭和時代風の窓が柿と梨の木の後ろに見えます。中野で。

I pass this house frequently on the way to the station. The metal fence is truly ugly, but somehow from this angle, there is a beauty and mystery to this old home. They’re growing persimmons and pears.

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

small_farm_eggplant_redpepper_setagaya_nodai_bike

農大に自転車で行く時、この小さい農園をいつも観察します。最近、ナスとトウガラシが熟していました。

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.

Kita Kamakura looks elegant, even from inside the train

電車から、きれいな北鎌倉の自宅の写真をとりました。駅の仕切りの格子は自宅の木の塀と調和しています。木の塀の下に、夏の草がたくさん生えています。

I spotted this lovely Kita Kamakura house from inside the train. I like how the station uses a simple screen that echoes the house’s wood fence. I also love how the summer weeds are running rampant at the bottom of the fence.

First baby bitter melon on Shibaura House’s green staircase

.@ShibauraHouse のグリーン階段で、最初のゴーヤができました。私のアイデアでは、この曲線状の階段をアサガオとゴーヤが埋めます。今年は梅雨が長くて、つる植物がまだ始まったばかりです。これから、早く育つと思います。

Checking up on the two gardens I helped plant at Shibaura House, it was delightful to see the first baby bitter melon, called goya in Japanese. I think the staff were concerned that it was growing slowly, so it was exciting to first see the yellow flowers, and then to find the first vegetable! I was also thrilled to see the vines just starting to be visible from the sidewalk outside Shibaura House.

Shibaura House’s second floor has a balcony with a curving staircase. My idea was to cover the staircase railing and protective wire fence with a combination of morning glory and goya for summer. There were also some passion flower seeds, but I guess they did not sprout.

Rainy season has been oddly long this summer. It’s usually over by the end of June, but this year shows no sign of ending yet. Given the intense summer heat in Tokyo, I am certain that this staircase will fill out nicely in the next weeks.

Fantasy landscape with fountain, palm, and odd characters

A miniature fantasy landscape freely shared on a Tokyo curbside.

ミニチュアのファンタジー風景が舗道 の縁石を占領している。

This tiny curbside garden is a fantasy landscape in miniature in what was probably dead space previously between the house and the road. There’s moving water, a palm tree, plants, and several odd characters. I found it just across the road from the giant tree on that former country lane that is now barely visible in Suginami, not far from Opera City.

The contents are fun in their whimsical incongruity. Even in this tiny space, there are several overlapping vignettes. A tiny palm tree joined by a sliver bunny and a character that appears to be a cross between European Romanticism and anime; several Sago palms (Cycas revoluta) beneath some mid-height bushes; and the fountain with water plants and a character trio with a helmeted princess, a red Cobra super-hero whose left arm is a semi-automatic weapon, and an over-sized yellow dog. The fountain features plants, a tiny cliff-side, and bathtub ducks.

The garden structure is very DIY: low-cost, anonymously designed, and highly imaginative. I love that the gardener is sharing this creation with the neighbors and passers-by. The garden’s minimal foundation is constructed mostly of  low-lying brick with some wood fencing. I particularly like the tag that shows the flowers that will bloom later.

Thanks again to @ArchitourTokyo for the great bike tour where we discovered this sculpture garden.

Hanging plant decorates fence in front of empty lot

I like how someone has hung this simple plant, commonly called “wandering Jew” in the United States, on the fence in front of this empty lot. The lot has been empty for at least two years, a long time between demolition and reconstruction. The fence occasionally changes, but it was especially nice to see some plant decoration.

In the context shot below, you can also see that someone planted a simple hedge on the right side. My guess is that both of these plant interventions– one in the ground, the other secured by a simple S-hook– were created by neighbors who are getting tired of seeing the empty lot and its weeds. I admire this anonymous, small contribution to the neighborhood.

Park and green roof provide cultural window at 3331 Arts Chiyoda

A reminder that tomorrow night is the Tokyo DIY Gardening Workshop at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, a great new arts space in a converted junior high school. I took these photos last week when I went there for a planning meeting with my workshop co-organizer Chris Berthelsen of Fixes. It’s great that in addition to all the art exhibit, gallery and office spaces inside, the front of the 3331 Arts Chiyoda is a very welcoming park with a lawn and shade trees (plus a very popular smoking area next to a public bathroom).

For non-Japanese and non-parents, it’s a great experience to see the inside and even the roof of what seems like a typical city school: old wood shoe lockers, simple yet sturdy furniture, and rooms that seem very Bauhaus in their streamlined functionality. The roof is also interesting because for city schools that is probably where most if not all recreation takes place. For some reason the art space created this small lawn area, and of course I followed Chris’ lead in taking off my sandals and walking bare-foot on the grass.

3331 Arts Chiyoda has also set up dozens of rental plots for people who want to grow vegetables. If anyone is nearby, there seem to be plenty of vacant spaces, and it would be a cool place to grow vegetables and to get to know the arts groups and activities in the building.

The chain link fence on the sides and top, the institutional clock, even the caged loudspeakers evoke an ordinary childhood scene that is unfamiliar to me. It’s cool to experience these spaces, and imagine that many of the people I know in Tokyo attended schools like this.

Ceramic studio spring garden

I take care of my relatives ceramic studio garden. Last year’s 5bai midori “satoyama unit,” installed during a fall typhoon, is coming back with lots of new growth. This photo shows off the yellow flowers “yamabuki”, a vigorous Japanese shrub. Sometimes you see white flowers, or multi-petalled yellow ones.

Shiho ceramic studio‘s back yard is a small l-shape raised beds. Much of it is shaded by persimmon and plum trees and the neighbors’ homes. The garden includes a volunteer shurro palm tree (しゅろ, 棕櫚) and a Japanese herb called sanshou (サンショウ) that traveled from the neighboring store’s bicycle parking lot.

A lot of what I planted at the end of last year has come back, including hydrangea, lilies of the valley, hostas, rosemary, jasmine, and a lantern flower vine that almost fully covers the chain link fence. And the giant cymbidium orchid has been blooming through April. It’s great to hear that the ceramic teachers and students are enjoying the garden.

I think the eight bags of compost helped a lot in improving the soil and make this shade garden thrive.

One plant that didn’t survive the Tokyo winter is a plant commonly called “purple princess” in San Francisco. To fill the gap left by the plant and my hope for it growing large fast and covering the cinder block wall. I brought over a kanamemochi shrub: a quick growing and very popular Tokyo shrub with distinctive red, new spring leaves. I also planted a yuzu lemon tree and a white single petal yamabuki.

Dead space by design

Dead space, Shin Nakano, Tokyo Metro

Tokyo Green Space celebrates the ingenuity of people who create greenery in a city that is often poorly planned, dominated by concrete, and overly paved. However, it is worth pointing out the prevalence of dead spaces by design, often created by local governments and even Tokyo Metro.

Above is a nearly brand new elevator providing access to the Shin Nakano Marunouchi station of Tokyo Metro. The elevator occupies an odd shaped and small space between a road and parking lot, and between a pachinko parlor, a large apartment building and a busy street. Next to the rectilinear elevator and covered entrance is a sizeable triangular area bordered by a brown colored metal fence.

Clearly, the Metro does not want people to park their bikes in this small area, and is probably pleased that they have accomplished this goal. However, the fence has made this centrally located land a dead zone. So many other uses could be made with that space: a tree or two, a bench, a vegetable garden, a food cart, newspaper stand, a bulletin board for community events. Given the amount of local gardeners, I am certain that the Metro would not need to maintain the space with their own staff.

Dead space in Nakano

A similar dead triangle zone was created between a pedestrian path and a small street. Again, the design goal is to prevent vehicles from entering the pedestrian path (in the foreground with white tiles on the ground). Here, too, the brown metal fence creates a triangle of deadness, where the yellow and green poles would have seemed adequate for the job.

If the brown metal fence was not there, the space could also be used for much needed shade, a fruit tree, a community garden, or a bench. The creation of these dead spaces by government authorities suggests a lack of imagination and awareness.

Nakano Honcho dead space

Finally, this space between houses and apartments is filled with concrete, and apparently unused. It is unclear whether the space is public street, individually owned or somehow shared space between neighbors. In any case, it is a wasted opportunity for greenery and community.

Ginza rice farm

Ginza rice farm

On a side street in Ginza, I noticed a rice farm and met Ginza Farm‘s CEO Iimura Kazuki (飯村一樹) and his assistant who were tending the rice and two cute ducklings. Shop clerks and construction clerks stopped by to admire the rice in its mid-summer glory.

The rice farm occupies an empty lot. At the end of the afternoon Iimura-san was draining the rice paddy, and his assistant was collecting the ducklings to take back to the office for the evening. On the left is a beautiful table and benches, on the back and right side a huge photo mural of rural Japanese rice farms, and in front a bamboo fence, some live bamboo, vines, a black pine, and a few cucumber plants.

The banner reads “100 rice farms make Japan healthy.” The project is apparently funded by this group of Japanese rice farmers, with support from a lumber association. The following day was going to feature an “onigiri” (rice ball) party at 5 pm, and there’s something planned for this Sunday, July 19.

Iimura-san was very friendly, and even pointed out a frog that had somehow discovered the rice paddy.

Ginza Farm's Iimura Kazuki Ginza Farm frog

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Office tower landscaping

Office tower landscaping, Akihabara

On my way to a meeting at an office tower in Akihabara, I noticed this subtle and attractive landscaping. I like how the garden breaks up a barren space and uses traditional elements of Japanese gardens– bamboo, rock, natural fencing,and emptiness– in a non-traditional scale and grouping.