Hamarikyu

Insect skirt made of rice stalks decorates pine trees at traditional Japanese gardens

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日本庭園で見かける、こも巻きという藁の腹巻きは、季節を思わせる、きれいな手法ですが、実際は、松を守ることに効果的じゃないそうです。悪い虫を食べる良い虫も駆除してしまうからです。皇居の庭では、この手法は、もう使わないそうです。

This rice stalk skirt is a beautiful and seasonal Japanese garden craft. The intent is to naturally attract and remove harmful insects, although now it seems that some famous gardens no longer use it because it traps both harmful and beneficial insects.

Garden edges: former imperial property borders freeway on one side, harbor on other side

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浜離宮恩賜庭園には、長い歴史と面白いカモ猟の場所があります。さらに、都市と湾の端の思いがけない風景があります。

Hamarikyu is an elaborate garden between the office towers of Shiodome and the harbor full of warehouses, garbage incinerators, and the massive immigration office with no cellphone coverage. Inside the garden, you can learn how the Emperor created a special landscape to facilitate duck hunting that used decoy ducks, falcons, and nets. But on the edges of the garden, you can see the messy metropolis with its relentless accumulation of transportation, commerce, and recently new luxury residential development. I like how on the city side, the stone-lined canal has been preserved, and on the harbor side, an older looking flood gate still regulates the garden’s pond.

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Edo modern at Hamarikyu garden

オランダから来た建築家や都市研究者による「成長後都市の生活」についてのワークショップのために、最近、浜離宮庭園に行きました。江戸時代とモダンが混ざっています。

Recently I brought 28 participants of the Dutch-Tokyo Still City workshop on “post-growth” urban life to Hamarikyu garden. This photo captures the simultaneity of activities inside and outside the garden: Edo-style pruning of pine trees, city dwellers enjoying traditional tea, port and luxury housing structures, even an incinerator chimney.

See Tokyo by water, including Japanese garden, funny boat, & historic Asakusa

With A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen, I’ll be leading an afternoon tour tomorrow of Tokyo Bay and the Sumida river for Still City, an exciting workshop hosted at Shibaura House with international participants interested in urban design.

Anyone is free to join us tomorrow, or to use the itinerary on your own at any time. I like the layers of history visible when viewing Tokyo as a once great waterway, and the current reverberations of last century’s apocalyptic earthquakes, war bombing, surrender, and reinvention. The centuries old Japanese garden uses salt water from the bay for its ponds, there will be early fall folliage, and we will ride Himiko, the crazy boat in the photo above.

Still City is a Dutch-Japanese workshop looking at opportunities suggested by viewing Tokyo as emblematic of post-growth urban life. It’s supported by the Japan Foundation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with its local embassy.

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Still City Tokyo Program: Tour (30 Oct. 2012) — Tokyo by Water with Jared Braiterman of Tokyo Green Space and Chris Berthelsen of A Small Lab

Overview: We’ll visit a traditional Japanese garden near Shibaura House, recall Tokyo’s river heritage on a water bus up the Sumida River, and explore Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. A frugal afternoon exploring a few still spaces in this churning megalopolis. Spontaneous picnicking, beers from final-generation liquor stores, and foraged city food are all possible.

1. Enjoy a traditional Japanese garden: Meet at Hamarikyu Garden at 1.00 pm (Nakanogomon Gate entrance)
Hamarikyu Garden is an Edo-style garden situated between the glass high-rises of Shiodome and Tokyo Bay. A traditional Japanese garden dating back hundreds of years, this spot by the bay played a critical role in the negotiations between US General McArthur and Emperor Hirohito in settling the war and the fate of the imperial family. Perhaps they partook in duck hunting together, a ruling class pastime marked with a religious shrine.
Where: Hamarikyu Garden is a short walk from Hamamatsuchou, Shimbashi, and Shiodome stations, about 2 km from Shibaura House. You can easily walk from Shibaura House, or take the Yamanote line or the Yurikamome monorail.
Cost: 300 yen admission

2.  Boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa: Meet at Hinode Pier’s Waterbus Station at 2.45 pm
The water bus from Hinode Pier to Asakusa takes about 40 minutes. Going upstream on the wide Sumida River, you can experience Tokyo’s river heritage, and see a good part of eastern Tokyo, including the new Sky Tree. For those new to Tokyo and even for those who live here, viewing Tokyo by boat is a rare and fun event.
Where: Hinode Pier is half way between Hamarikyu Garden and Shibaura House. There’s also a Yurikamome monorail station there.
Cost: 720 yen. Boat leaves at 2.55 pm.

3. Explore old Tokyo at Asakusa: Arrive by water bus at 3.30 pm
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. It has been less gentrified in the post-war years, and retains an old Tokyo feeling. We’ll check out a shrine, a market, and some back street gardening. Time permitting, we’ll stop at a neighborhood bathhouse to relax after the tour. Feel free to return at any time.

Return to Shibaura House: Take the Toei Subway Asakusa Line to Mita station, then walk. 18 min on express train, 210 yen.

Ginza Honey Bee Project

Ginza Honey Bee Project, cropped poster

Last week the Ginza Honey Bee Project (銀座ミツバチプロジェクト) founders Takayasu Kazuo (高安和夫) and Tanaka Atsuo (田中淳夫) talked with me about their successful four year old honey-making project in the middle of Ginza, and showed me their rooftop hives.

We met in a unremarkable conference room in a nondescript office building behind Matsuya department store. A group of veterinarians was leaving, and we would soon be joined by a professional photographer. In the years since they launched urban bee farming in Tokyo’s most expensive commercial district, Ginza Honey Bee Project has attracted attention from local, national and international media, including National Geographic, BBC, CNN and many others.

Takayasu-san and Tanaka-san lead an all-volunteer effort, and their backgrounds are suitably in organic farming and real estate. They are deeply committed to keeping bees and reviving an industry that is in decline. Tanaka-san explained two factors contributing to the decline in the Japanese honey industry: deforestation after World War II to rebuild Japan and the increasing use of pesticides in rice farming. And while other countries are also experiencing “colony collapse disorder,” Japan is particularly vulnerable to the advanced age of its farmers and a decline in beekeepers from 15,000 to about 2,500.

Ginza Honey Bee Project aims to revive honey production, and increase awareness of the relationship between bees, nature and people. It was initially difficult to gain the permission of all 25 building tenants to have eight hives on the roof, housing 300,000 bees. Now they are producing 440 kilos of honey per year, one third of which goes to the volunteers and the remaining 3,000,000 yen in sales are donated to Ginza neighborhood projects such as an opera concert, a Farm Aid Ginza event in support of organic agriculture, local tree planting, and roof greening to create bee habitats. The large volunteer base includes Ginza club “mama-sans” and bartenders, landscape architects, art therapists and kids. Matsuya department store, a project sponsor, uses the Ginza honey in special pastries and a cocktail.

Ginza Honey Bee Project label

One interesting story Tanaka-san told was how Ginza Honey Bee Project rescued bees from nearby Tsukudajima that were going to be exterminated. There is now a hive of Japanese bees, which previously were not considered suitable for honey-making. Japanese bees are said to be at once “more gentle” and also “less loyal” to their hives. Despite some initial fears, we were encouraged to put our fingers in the honey-comb for a taste, and it was delicious.

Ginza Honey Bee Project honeycomb

The Ginza bees travel to the Imperial Palace and Hamarikyu, “flying faster than taxis.” The honey is labeled according to the nectar source, including chestnut, orange, clover and mint. The honey bottles are marked with the collection date. Future plans include a hoped-for 20 hive farm near Tokyo Station.

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