fixes

S-Hooks are Tokyo’s super glue

My perception of Tokyo has been completely altered by the wonderfully perceptive Fixes blog. It truly seems that all of Tokyo is held together by the amazing S-hook. Like my previous post, this hanging pot relies on an S-hook to attach itself to the existing built environment. In this case, there’s a double S-hook for added stability. The plant is decorating the narrow space between two old buildings on a mostly commercial stretch of a large boulevard. I love how someone has intervened in the landscape, and done so in a way that is completely removable and dependent on what already exists.

Tokyo-DIY-gardening project launches!

I am super-excited to let everyone know that in partnership with the amazing Chris Berthelsen of Fixes, we have launched a new project called Tokyo-DIY-gardening. There is a website where we hope others will contribute. You can follow our Twitter  hash tag #tokyoDIYgardening.

And, if you are in Tokyo, please come to our interactive workshop at the new 3331 Arts Chiyoda space where we introduce the project and invite a collaborative mapping and re-imagining of Tokyo as the greenest city full of gardens, plants, and trees. The workshop will be held in Japanese and English on August 21 from 7 to 9 pm.

Chris and I are excited to participate in the Grand Opening series of events at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, and look forward to opening our project to many voices.

Balcony overflows with bougainvillea and other plants

On a walk with Chris Berthelsen of Fixes, one of my favorite Tokyo blogs, we noticed this balcony overflowing with bougainvillea and other plants. Although many Tokyo balconies lack plants, it’s great to see one that is bursting with flowers and life. This corner balcony must have 40 or even 100 plants. I wonder what it looks like from inside the apartment.

I notice how they are using a small space tactic to maximize plants: vertical shaped pots which provide more soil for growing while occupying less horizontal space. This year I have started using similar shaped pots on my very full balcony.

Summer blackberries in Tokyo


This blackberry bush, supported by plastic poles and rope, remind me of my friend Chris Berthelsen’s amazing Fixes blog. It has all the classic elements: use of public space in unexpected way, display of citizens’ care and skills, recycling of simple materials to make something useful and wonderous.

This is one of my favorite neighborhood gardens. In the past, she has grown rice in a bucket, gorgeous peonies, cymbidium orchids, tulips, roses, hydrangea, and geraniums.

Small gardens and quiet lane in Higashi Nakano

A few weeks ago I took a long, rambling walk with Chris Berthelsen, author of the amazing blog Fixes which “investigates alterations of space/objects at the public/private boundary in suburban Tokyo.” I love his close observations, unlimited curiosity, and attention to materials and human effort and satisfaction.

The goal of our walk was to explore an area neither of us knew and attempt to get lost. In addition to some inventive fixes at a tiny park, we saw many beautiful gardens in Higashi Nakano. I love how the garden in the photo above focuses almost entirely on cymbidium orchids and clivia. Also noteworthy are the re-use of cinder blocks, the shelf that provides space for another level of plants, and the care in providing beauty at the edge between private and public space.

Another garden uses the two sides of a house to create a complex perennial garden using flower pots. Great variety of texture, color, and plant variety. I can only imagine how much more beautiful the garden would be if it were planted in the soil, and allowed to grow so much bigger.

I certainly would have missed this small garden below where both plants and bikes are tied with string to the window grate. It’s great to see that no space is wasted, and that multiple functions can be supported despite all constraints.

And lastly, I found this small, unpaved lane to be incredibly charming. The stick and bamboo fence, the line of trees and shrubs, the materiality of the soil all made me imagine that we were in a small country town, not two kilometers from the Shinjuku skyscrapers. There are still areas that seem wild within the center of Tokyo.