According to the early French anthropologist Marcel Mauss, gifts are the foundation of society. They are certainly convenient for Making Friends.
I love the contrived fantasy of Marui’s Shinjuku roof garden. It’s a large space, with many formal French elements like precise mini-hedges, various arbors, lush borders, and various seating options. At twilight, the lights come on, and I love the mix of formal garden with functional elements like heating and cooling systems, barbed wire for safety, and views of additional Marui building signage and the blank, almost windowless Docomo tower. The photos make it seem empty, but in fact local teens have already discovered this hidden, semi-public space.
On my favorite Koenji shopping street called “Look,” a shop selling feminine French homewares just built a lush second floor garden. By attaching two long and deep planters, they have transformed this older building with new life. I love the variety of plants, and the way the garden adds onto what is already there.
The shop is called Malto and they are online, too.
Especially relevant now that the world is focusing on biodiversity with the COP 10 conference in Nagoya, the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens has identified Paris japonica as having the world’s longest genome sequence, fifty times greater than the human genome.
Scientific American reports that plants with more DNA take longer to grow and to reproduce, making them especially endangered. This sub-alpine canopy plant has only seven known habitats in the world. More details in the September 2010 issue of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
I wonder if my United States readers know that our country is the only one of 193 countries that did not sign the 1993 Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biodiversity, and has only observer rather than voting status at this month’s Nagoya COP 10 conference.
(Thank you, Christophe, for sending me this news story. With the mutual French-Japanese attraction, this plant has a charmed name as well as a 100 meter genome strand).
I have written on this research blog about vertical space being an underused resource in cities. Many walls could serve as gardens, habitat, and “green curtains.” There is also room for art on the countless dull urban surfaces. The photo above shows graffiti by the aptly named Jef Aerosol, who contributed to a fun art show covering the interior and exterior of Tokyo’s French Embassy, scheduled to be demolished soon and replaced with a high-rise apartment building. Even embassy compounds must contribute to urban development, but for now you can wander through the old building and see installation art in “No Man’s Land.”
Inside the upscale Shin Marunouchi office tower, I saw a poster for Japanese wine outside an Italian restaurant. Japanese have recently become very interested in wine, and I had heard about a famous manga introducing wine to new drinkers that had been translated into French and become popular. It was interesting to see the promotion of national wine.
U Goto Florist in Roppongi is one of Tokyo’s oldest and most luxurious flower shops. The tray above is a stunning summer arrangement of bamboo fireflies, cactus candles and sand. Founded in 1892 and owned by the third generation of the same family, U Goto prides itself on being Western-style and employs three European flower designers trained in Dutch and French flower academies.
Housed in a 1990s company-owned office building near Roppongi Crossing, U Goto is Western- style in a way that only Japanese could perfect. Multi-roomed and multi-layered, the high ceilinged shop includes cut flowers, fake flowers, and potted plants, and also offers flower-arranging classes. Some examples of unusual arrangements and bamboo framing were on display. The shop fittings– stone floors, marble work tables, distressed cabinets, an excess of crown molding that is still somehow rustic chic– evoke Manhattan or Paris.
I was charmed that the staff offered me a demi-tasse of coffee, which gave me the opportunity to carefully observe them arranging and wrapping lavish bouquets of roses, dahlias, sunflowers and orchids in the finest papers. Orchid petals were carefully protected in cloth paper wrappings.
U Goto’s extremely high standards necessitate removing all flowers and plants that are even slightly past peak. Cut flowers are donated to hospitals, and plants to senior centers. The summer window display below would be replaced after the Obon holiday with a fall display, in spite of the continued heat and humidity. One designer was already thinking forward to the Christmas display.