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First article about Tokyo Green Space in Chinese: 東京都市學,衝突新美學

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ペイユン・リンさんのおかげで、初めてTokyo Green Spaceについての中国語の記事が出ました。『Green』は台湾の建築関係の雑誌です。記事の題名は、「東京都市學,衝突新美學」です。

Thanks to Peiyun Lin, an article about Tokyo Green Space appears in this month’s Green magazine, a Taiwanese architecture magazine. The title is “東京都市學,衝突新美學,” which the author translates as Tokyo Green Space: The City Full of Conflicts. The photos are mine, and Peiyun’s story based on this blog.

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Dill adds luxury flavor to home-cooked meals

ディルというハーブは贅沢な味がします。4年前に作った植木鉢は東京に来たばかりの頃、史火陶芸教室で勉強して作りました。

This dill has been providing a nice flavor to our food for the past months. It tastes so expensive, and it’s fun to walk a few steps from the kitchen and grab some leaves. This ceramic pot is from the first series I made when I first came to Tokyo four years ago and began studying at Shiho ceramic studio.

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.

Roses bloom early on balcony. Along with jasmine, first to bloom on green curtain

毎年、グリーンカーテンにバラとジャスミンが最初に咲きます。庭の背景は建物の森みたいです。

I like the city backdrop to my balcony green curtain. The rose and jasmine are the first to bloom.

My first Tokyo balcony blueberry

はじめてのブルーベリーです。ベランダで育っています。去年も今年も、東京のあちこちでブルーベリーが売られているのを見ました。

This is my first balcony blueberry. Since last year, I have noticed more blueberry plants for sale in Tokyo, from home centers to neighborhood flower and plant shops. I am eager to see how easy it is to grow them in Tokyo, especially in my balcony container garden.

First sakura after great earthquake

井ノ頭公園が花見を中止するというのは、本当でしょうか。先が見えないので、みんなが不安で落ち着かないようです。

My friend Matt sent me this intricate sakura weather map: it shows the updated forecast for the start of cherry blossoms across the Japanese archipelago. Even if you can’t read Japanese, it’s impressive to see how much weather forecasting amplifies cherry blossom season.

Today I also heard from Twitter’s @Matt_Alt that there are big signs at Inokashira park Big asking visitors to refrain from holding cherry blossom viewing parties there. This is one of Tokyo’s most famous parks, and one of the most popular places for young people to celebrate spring with all night and all day drinking parties.

It’s now just over two weeks after the horrific natural and man-made disaster that began with the East Japan great earthquake. With looming energy shortages, national mourning for the dead, and continued fears about nuclear fallout, Tokyo life will not be the same. Yet it is still impossible to fully know what will emerge in the coming months and years.

Will these events increase or reverse Japan’s hyper-urbanization? How will people respond to new concerns about food and water safety? Can the government and industry regain trust and provide leadership? How can civil society contribute to rebuilding the country and restoring Japan’s international reputation?

And can public spaces and local businesses flourish in a time of anxiety and uncertainty?

Dreaming of Mount Fuji on January 1

What will you dream about tonight?

今夜何の夢を見ますか?

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?

First fall maple leaves turning yellow and red

This weekend we’ve had two typhoons in Tokyo. My friend laughed about this, but it’s really handy to have rain pants if you plan to bike or even walk when the wind is high. A few days ago, we were in the mountains outside of Tokyo and saw our first fall maple leaves turning yellow and red.

I am looking forward to the television weather reports that will soon be tracking the progress of fall foliage from north eastern Japan down to south western Japan. I love the media fixation on fall foliage and spring cherry blossoms, marking the season and reminding the viewer of Japan’s geography. Altitude makes a big difference, too.

First balcony cucumber is a beauty

Photo taken on May 20.

At a celebratory dinner recently, we were served a tiny cucumber about this size with its flower still fresh. This lovely and seasonal bite was as delicious and memorable as more expensive luxuries like sea urchin. But I think I’ll wait for mine to grow a little larger.

Bonsai shadow

Taking care of bonsai trees makes you pay more attention to details. I love how this tiny Japanese maple’s shadow accentuates its twisty, thin trunk. I am thinking about how best to prune it once the leaves get bigger. I don’t want it to get too tall or too full around the length of the trunk. This is my first bonsai, purchased last summer at Sinajina. There’s an older post of its fall foliage.

City and Country, 1970s and now

“The Japanese think of the City in the way that Englishmen used to think of Mighty London. It is either one or the other. Rice paddies or the Ginza.” (p35)

I am reading the wonderful author Donald Richie’s The Inland Sea, first published in 1971. Richie is the ultimate American expat in Japan, who stayed from the start of the Occupation until today, and this is a classic travel book focused on Seto Nai Kai (the Inland Sea), which I recently visited.

This passage struck me because Ginza Farm, which I have visited for Tokyo Green Space, overcomes the division between city and country by bringing a rice paddy to Ginza, Tokyo’s most celebrated commercial district full of De Beers, Cartier and now of course Uniqlo flagship stores.

Richie’s The Inland Sea also reminds me of the recently deceased French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropiques, which chronicled an Amazon on the verge of extinction. In a similar voyage by boat, Richie bemoans the new highways and lure of the city that threaten the fishing economy and general isolation of these islands and peoples. What used to be called “salvage anthropology” clashes with contemporary feelings by focusing on purity and what is about to be lost. This antique attitude also portrays the writer as both the “first” and last foreigner to capture a vanishing culture, creating a false sense of importance for the individual writer.

Despite this unease, it is hard not to enjoy Richie’s beautiful writing, his insights on insider and outsider culture, and his only partly closeted attraction to Japan. And I do not doubt the gulf that once existed between city and country, which makes the current urban interest in rural life and agriculture all the more indicative of profound social and environmental change.

On a related topic, I read this week in the New York Times that Korea, which is generally more accepting of national diversity, is having difficulties integrating children of mixed marriages. Most mixed children are the progeny of Korean farmers and their Chinese, Filipino and Thai wives. Partly the social question is of race, but also of class and city versus country.

I was struck that Korea shares Japan’s rural abandonment, and seems ahead of Japan in responding through immigration. Perhaps Japan, too, will first open its doors to immigrants willing to live in its rural areas now inhabited almost exclusively by the elderly. Despite Japan’s xenophobia, immigrants as care-givers and farmers seem more likely than the techno fantasy of robots: more cost-effective as workers and more human in terms of care and culture.