friends

Newly planted herbs at Shibaura House kick-off event

community_herb_shibaurahouse

芝浦ハウスコミュニティー・ハ—ブ・ガーデンのイベント・キックオフで、きれいな小鳥小屋と車輪のついた木製のプランターに、皆で一緒にハ—ブを植えました。たくさん友だちが来てくれて、とてもうれしかったです。

This is a photo from Shibaura House‘s Community Herb Garden project kick-off. I love the bird house planters, and the fact that the large wooden planters have hidden wheels to make the garden easily reconfigurable. Thanks to so many friends who came to the event!

Have you seen this cactus bonsai shop in Tokyo?

qusamura_cactus_bonsai_shop

サボテンの盆栽をはじめて見ました。AQというユーザー・エクスペリエンス(UX)の会社の友だちは、Qusamuraのきれいなデザインが大好きだそうです。

My friends at AQ, a Tokyo user experience agency, are big fans of Qusamura’s cactus bonsai. Lovely design.

Delicate vine growing outside my friends’ kitchen window

この花が咲いているつる植物は繊細に見えます。友達のイアンとゆきとパットの台所の窓から。

I like this delicate, flowering vine growing outside the kitchen window at my friends Ian, Yuki, and Pat’s house.

Kikyou flowers on summer balcony

偶然にホームセンターでキキョウを買いました。後で、サンフランシスコの庭にあったcampanulaという花と関係があると知りました。ネットで、キキョウの家紋を見つけました。写真の背景には、種から育てたニューヨーク・トマトの芽が見えます。もういろいろの友だちに苗木をあげました。

I picked up three short kikyou plants at the home center, without knowing much about them. Later I learned that kikyou, also known as bellflower, are one of Japan’s seven fall flowers (yet oddly active in summer). Kikyou is also related to campanula, which spread rapidly in my shady San Francisco garden with abundant purple flowers.

In the (film) photo background, you can see the sprouts of New York tomatoes that I grew from seeds. I’ve shared the seedlings with many friends already.

I also discovered these cool black and white Japanese crests (kamon) based on kikyou. (Source: Wikipedia).

Planting trees at Umi no Mori

先月友だちと海の森でボランティア植林に参加しました。二時間以内で、二十人が五百の木を植えました。この新しい都市の森はすばらしいと思います。五十万木はごみの上で育ちます。たくさんの都民はこの大掛かりなプロジェクトをまだ知りませんでした。

Last month some friends and I participated in a volunteer tree-planting at Umi no Mori, a forest being created on a landfill island on the bay. I’ve written before how few Tokyo residents know about this ambitious project promoted during Tokyo’s failed second Olympic bid in 2007. Umi no Mori is meant to carry cool ocean breezes into Tokyo’s crowded urban core.

The tree planting was fun. We were in a group of twenty or so volunteers planting 500 trees in a 25 square meter section. There were about 25 varieties of trees, and we planted them very close together. I learned from one of the volunteer leaders that this dense planting encourages the trees to compete and grow faster than normal. One of the volunteers explained to me that this is part of Miyawaki Akira’s method for restoring forests on post-industrial greenfields.

Creating new waterfront parks and planting 500,000 trees is certainly a great thing for Tokyo. Still, I wonder if this project were less top-down and more open to the citizens what greater impacts this project could have:

1. By encouraging more people to participate in the creation of the park, it would be a great chance to explain to Tokyo citizens about native trees and habitats. It would be awesome to link planting new trees in the Tokyo Bay with also adding greenery in every Tokyo neighborhood, with active participation by city residents.

2. By opening even a small section now, more people can begin to experience the park and perhaps learn more about urban garbage. What precisely is being put into this landfill? How do the layers of garbage reflect our contemporary lifestyles? What can be done to reduce the amount of garbage that must be buried?

I think this park will eventually be fantastic. However, it’s a missed opportunity not to make its creation more participatory, more transparent, more public, more connected to the rest of the city, more educational, and a catalyst for public and collective rethinking of the urban environment and waste production.

Ambassador Cedeno of Costa Rica and his wife Tauli, and Edoble’s Jess Mantell and her friend Miho participated with me.

Tanemaki project in Japan this month brings Dutch creativity to Tohoku

アムステルダムで住んでいる友だちは今月、日本で “tanemaki project”(種まきプロジェクト)をしています (@tanemaki2011) 。チューリップとパンケーキのワークショップを行います。寄付金付きを集めて、東北の仮設学校を飾ります。

My Amsterdam-based friends Hiyoko and Mark are in Japan this month developing their Tanemaki (planting) project (twitter @tanemaki2011). Hiyoko is a superb illustrator, and she’s organizing events to support decorating a temporary school in Tohoku. Last week they led a fun two-day tulip workshop at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, and this Saturday will be a pancake-making event with Mammoth School. It’s great to see them developing connections between Japan and the Netherlands, which have a special and long relation.

(Image: Hiyoko Imai).

Pecha Kucha presentation

Wednesday I presented Tokyo Green Space at Pecha Kucha in Tokyo in front of almost 300 designers, artists and creative types. The biggest crowd pleaser was the photo of the still life of salary man in a flower bed.

I presented half in Japanese and half in English; it was good practice but a little nerve-testing to talk about my research in Japanese.

I was overwhelmed that so many friends came to the presentation, including Shu, Matthew, Katy, Izumi, Shinobu, Shige, Takako, Hagiwara, Mike (TM), Taka, Alban, Claudia, Umeki, Ben, Jesper, and Hannah. Many thanks to Mark Dytham, Astrid Klein and Tomoko for inviting me to participate!

Sidewalk flowers celebrate ramen shop opening

Sidewalk flowers celebrate ramen shop opening

Whenever a small business opens in Tokyo, there is a floral explosion outside as the shop owners’ friends and vendors provide enormous flower displays as a show of support and celebration. It also functions to draw the public’s attention to the new business. What an exuberance of color and quantity.

Flower power

Salary man taking keitai sakura photo at Imperial Palace

Spring in Tokyo reminds you of the power that flowers have to capture human imagination. Cherry blossom viewing, which has its own name in Japanese, hanami (花見), draws people to socialize outdoors, drinking and eating on blue tarps with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

The power of cherry blossoms (or sakura, 桜) even inspires acts of seeming recklessness. In the photo above, an older salary man is perched precariously above the Imperial Palace moat in his quest to take a close-up photo with his cellphone (or ketai).

As an anthropologist and foreigner in Japan, it is also striking to me how specific flower devotion in Japan is. On a hanami stroll, I noticed this beautiful yellow flowering bush called yamabuki, literally “mountain spray.” I have never seen it on either coast in the United States; an internet search gives its English name “kerria.” Despite the crowds in the Tokyo park, I felt that I alone was giving this flower some attention.

Yamabuki in Narita Higashi, Tokyo

At the end of this month, Good Day Books in Ebisu, will be hosting an author’s reading with Enbutsu Sumiko. Her Flower Lover’s Guide to Tokyo offers 40 walks in Tokyo focusing on seasonal flowers in various parks and gardens.

Enbutsu Sumiko, Flower Lover's Guide to Tokyo