Arriving at Gardex, the International Garden Expo Tokyo, was a bit of a shock. First, I could not believe how far it was from Tokyo. Past Disney. Past IKEA. Past Costco. Gardex occupied a portion of one of the five mega-halls. The first impression was overwhelming: a hum of electricity and a burst of fluorescent lighting animating a trade show as removed from nature as possible.
The first booth we passed promoted a pesticide company. Spray bottles seemed to float above colorful flowers, a salesperson spoke with much animation into a wireless mic, and lighted towers offered multiples of each product. The photo mural and garish colors seem to contradict the “natural safety” message.
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A friend in San Francisco sent me this Reuters news story about a municipal government program in Suginami ward to plant flowers facing the street as a crime prevention measure. The article cites a city official saying, “The best way to prevent crime is to have more people on the lookout.” According to city officials, encouraging street flowers has lowered burglaries by 80% from 2002 to 2008. Read the full article.
Update: Suzuki-sensei at Nodai kindly provided me with the Yomiuri news story from June 6, 2009 which provides more detail. Apparently, before turning to flowers, the Suginami ward government tried security cameras, which worked but only for a short period. The local government than did a survey that found that only 2 of the 100 homes that experienced robbery had plants outside. Suginami achieved this remarkable crime reduction by spending 6,000,000 yen (about $65,000) per year on plants, and organizing 109 “Flower Blooming Troops” (花咲かせ隊) groups with 872 residents participating. The effectiveness is attributed to the plants bringing more people into small alleys and to neighbors interacting more with eachother.
Governments from Shizuoka, Okinawa, Fukuoka and seventeen other Japanese prefectures have visited Suginami to study this crime success. It is also interesting that this news story spread to the China Daily, Brunei Times, Australia’s ABC, Times of India, and the Iran Daily.