Plants growing everywhere, people building shacks and hanging out on rooftops, narrow alleys.
This is the maple tree that shed the leaves on yesterday’s photo of the tiled steps. I am amazed that this tree survives despite the fact that the roots and the pavement join with no gap. Where does it find water, or nourishment? Tokyo really is a great place for growing, and its resilient plants show how much is possible.
Everywhere I walk in Tokyo, I see loquat trees (called biwa in Japanese 枇杷) on the sidewalks: planted between the sidewalk and roadway, next to a Royal Host, coming out of a shrine. Loquat seems well adapted to Tokyo, and it’s great to see such huge trees full of orange fruit and accessible from the street. I have to keep my eye out to see if the neighbors eat them.
Walking down a large boulevard in Higashi Koenji, I was surprised to see these potted vegetables on the sidewalk. In addition to ginko trees, this street has many azaleas between the vehicle lanes and the pedestrian sidewalk. In this spot, there’s a semi-permanent row of pots. But these eggplants and tomatoes are an extra row that someone temporarily set up.
I love how seasonal and impromptu this vegetable gardening is. And, after almost two years in Japan, I am still startled that people can place plants they love on the street, and no one eats the vegetables, vandalizes, or steals the plants. A city that’s safe for vegetables and plants is one that also welcomes people.
One of my neighbors cultivates her entrance and the side of the street along her building. Recently she showed me that she is growing rice in three small plastic buckets. I am impressed with this small bit of urban farming, so evocative of Japan’s agriculture and scaled for the city.
Her small garden spans public and private space, and is constantly changing by season; last month was hydrangea and peony, now rice and roses. She is constantly present on the street taking care of her plants and chatting with passer-bys. Her presence is reminiscent of the urban life created by Baltimore “stoops,” marble block steps, yet without the steps.