island

Fallen leaves are purple, gold, silver, and rust colors

fallen_leaves_chichijima

3月に落ち葉を見て、驚きました。紫色や金色や銀色や錆びたような色です。小笠原の季節と東京の季節は、全然違います。

I was surprised to see these fallen leaves in March. I guess subtropical Ogasawara’s seasons are very distinct from Tokyo.

Only recent human history: American, Japanese, American, Japanese ownership of Ogasawara

cave_chichijima

小笠原の人間の歴史は二百年くらいしかありません。第二次世界大戦のトンネルもアメリカの教会まだあります。

What’s surprising about Ogasawara is that there are no indigenous people. First settled in the mid 1800s by Americans who departed from Hawaii, the Japanese seized it during their colonial expansion, retaken by the United States after World War II, and then returned to Japan in the 1970s.

There are numerous reminders of the war. Inside the many hills you still see dank tunnels created for the island’s defense. Apparently there was no land war here, unlike (somewhat nearby) Iwo Jima. There’s also this incredibly forlorn-looking, Saint George church in the main port village. I love how the entry walkway does not meet the current sidewalk.

It’s odd to be in a place with such little human history. The English name for the islands, Bonin, is a mispronunciation of the Japanese words “no people” (bu nin, or mu nin).

american_church_shu_chichijima

Giant tree fern with unusual trunk

tree_fern_chichijima

森林生態系保護地域のなかで、「丸八」という木生シダが見えます。巨大な木生シダはニュージーランドとサンフランシスコを思い出します。

Inside the fenced-in Nature Sanctuary, we saw this lovely native fern tree.

Stylish Tokyo dog in a wetsuit on Ogasawara’s Miyanohama beach

dog_wetsuit_chichijima

砂浜で会ったおしゃれな東京の犬はウェットスーツを着ています。3月の海の水はきれいですが、まだ寒いです。

I had a nice chat with this dog’s owner at Miyanohama beach. It turns out she lives 1 or 2 kilometers from me here in Tokyo. Her orange windbreaker was almost as stylish as this incredible dog wetsuit. I think he needs a surf board. In March, the water is still cold so I guess this is also practical.

Finally on land, in Chichijima, after 25 hour boat trip

cove_rocks_chichijima

やっと、小笠原の父島に着きました。東京の中で、一番遠い場所です。「遠隔地」と呼ばれています。火山で作られた島は大陸につながっていませんでした。だから、自生する動物と植物がたくさんあります。タコノキという植物がタコみたいです。

A large crowd meets the ferry in Chichijima. Small hotels meet their guests, locals welcome their returning family and friends. There was even a steel drum band. Once on solid ground, in an island with a full-time population of about 2,000, you feel that you are in the most remote part of Japan. Well, certainly, it’s the most remote part of Tokyo.

What makes Ogaswara islands a world heritage site is that these volcanic islands have never been attached to a continent. Many of the plants and animals are unique to the islands. There’s been a lot of effort recently on Chichijima to control feral populations of goats, cats, and rats that are disturbing the  local habitat.

Local nature guides showed us around the island by day and by night. We learned about some unusual plants and even saw giant bats with “tanuki” faces. There are many beautiful coves with clear water, and steep hillside walks. Below is the takonoki tree, or octopus tree, named because of the shape of its aerial roots and branches. It also creates giant, nubby fruit.

takonoki_octopustree_chichijima

Exploring canals, water works, and urban edge in Shibaura

最近、芝浦の辺りをオーストラリア人の建築家・ランドスケープアーチストと散歩しました。芝浦ハウスという新しくてかっこいい文化のスペースは、一度行ったことかあります。今回は、色々な運河に区切られた人工島を観察できました。一番驚いたことは、水道局庁舎が5件もあることです。地図から、たくさんの水道局関係の言葉を勉強しました。排水機場、下水、汚泥、処理、庁舎、水再生、ポンプ所。芝浦は東京都の下水道と雨水の処理に不可欠だそうです。

Last month Australia’s smlwrld‘s Bianca and Lucas invited me to go with them on a walking adventure in Shibaura. They took some great photos and wrote up a post calling Shibaura “an infrastructure theme park.”

I’d only been once before, drawn to see the new cultural space Shibaura House. This second time, in addition to stopping back at Shibaura House, we explored the neighborhood and were stunned by the mix of uses being made of these small man-made islands criss-crossed with canals.

There are many water works facilities, a giant incinerator, docks for shipping and at least one re-purposed warehouse named Tabloid, offices from the 70s and 80s, newer apartment towers, industrial buildings, a cement factory, elevated monorail, and the base of the Rainbow Bridge. The top photo shows party boats and a fishing boat, alongside offices and residences.

The water works facilities include sludge, sewage, treatment, and pumping. It seems like most of Tokyo’s plumbing ends up being processed and then released into Tokyo Bay in Shibaura. It’s something to think of when using a sink or toilet, or imagining what happens to the sewers during a heavy rainstorm. Below is a map showing five water work facilities.

I like how on this very official map, someone has written “これ?” (here?) with an arrow pointing to the giant round entrance ramp to Rainbow Bridge. I’ll post more photos in the coming days from this walk.

The end of the walkway is approaching

友だちに会うために、最近に辰巳に行きました。運河がきれいで、新しいマンションが建設されています。しかし、公共のインフラは不全なままです。改良して、水辺に近づけるほうがいいと思います。東京湾をもっと感じたいです。

I recently visited Tatsumi, a landfill island near Yumenoshima in in Koto-ku for a house party. There are lot of new housing developments alongside the canals and neighboring old housing complexes. It’s sad that the public infrastructure is so incomplete. This neighborhood would be much more appealing if the canal-side sidewalks and parks were continuous. This lack of access to the Bay makes me often forget that there is a Tokyo waterfront.

Abandoned housing project is nature island of fruit and foliage

神宮前の路地を歩いているときに、廃墟の団地を発見しました。おそらくここに高級マンションが建てられます。この風景が破壊されるまでは、自然の島のようです。柿や紅葉や野生生物がいます。

Walking in the back streets in Jingumae, I came across this fantastic abandoned housing project. Soon the lot will no doubt be scraped and redeveloped into luxury residences with minimal landscaping. Until then, it’s an island of nature, full of persimmons, fall foliage, and wildlife.

Like a brief tropical holiday at very low cost

寒いときには、温室に来るのが熱帯林への安い休暇みたいです。夢の島熱帯植物館を訪れました。戦後、たくさんのごみで作られた島です。外でパパイアの並木を見ました。この果物を東京で育てることができますか。

The same week I participated in the Umi no Mori tree planting, I had the opportunity to re-visit Yume no Shima, Tokyo’s most famous artificial island made of waste. This urban development started in the 1950s. Now it’s a vast area with a sports club, botanic garden, playing fields, semi-wild palm landscape, a marina, and a still functioning incinerator. It’s showing its age with deferred maintenance and sparse usage.

I love how it’s named “Dream Island.” This time I visited the botanic garden. On the outside is a row of papaya trees, which I thought too tropical to grow outdoors in Tokyo. There’s also a row of ceramic frog planters leading to the front door. A green house is a great place to go on a cold day, like a brief tropical holiday at very low cost.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Traditional Japanese garden Kyu Shiba Rikyu dates to 1678 when land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay became the residence of Okugawa Tadatamo, an official of Tokugawa Shogunate. Kyu Shiba Rikyu is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens, along with Koishikawa Korakuen. Kyu Shiba Rikyu was destroyed by fire in the 1923 earthquake, rebuilt and gifted by the Emperor as a city park.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu garden

Today this stroll garden with a focal pond and two small islands sits steps from Hamamatsuchou station, and surrounded by office buildings, bullet trains, the JR Yamanote line, a monorail, elevated train, and two elevated highways. The pond reflects manicured black pines, office towers and billboards. There is also a very elegant archery range with grass lawn, tatami seating area, and targets inked by hand. (See photos after the jump below).

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

The pond and island were created over 400 years ago to recall China’s Seiko Lake (Xi Hu) and Reizan sacred mountain in Hangzhou (Zhejiang). Like at Koishikawa Korakuen, Kyu Shiba Rikyu was created at a time when garden design, philosophy, literature, and painting all borrowed heavily from China. Given our last century’s conflicts between Japan and China, is it too much to hope for artistic borrowings in this century?

A wonderful garden diplomacy would be a photographic exploration of these 400 year old Japanese gardens and the Chinese landscapes that inspired them. How have the natural and designed environments changed? What contemporary landscapes could inspire today’s art exchanges?

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Tsukudajima: nature and history

Tsukudajima canal

Next to Tsukishima is Tsukudajima, a tiny island that escaped the earthquake, war and high rise redevelopment. While not all of the houses have been preserved, the scale and and small alleys have been. Walking there today, you can see residents still fishing, visit a beautiful old shrine Sumiyoshi Jinja, buy tsukudani (fish boiled in miso sauce) from Edo-era stores, and attend annual obon and omatsuri festivals.

Tsukudajima old streetscape

This August there will be a special omatsuri festival that happens only once every 50 years. See the government website for more information: http://tsukuda.chuo.tokyo.jp/

Special omatsuri Tsukudajima poster

More photos after the jump.

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Inujima Art Project and ARUP

Inujima Art Project and ARUP Illustration ©Sambuichi Architects

Last week I met with the sustainability lead at ARUP, who discuss this global construction engineering firm’s work on the Inujima Art Project near Okayama. Located on a small island that once served as a copper refinery and granite quarry, this abandoned industrial site has been reclaimed as an environmental art work, with architecture by Sambuichi Hiroshi and art by Yanagi Yukinori. The art combines remnants of famed novelist Mishima Yukio’s house, Inujima granite, Inujima Karami bricks and slag.

Inujima Art Yukinori YanagiPhoto ©Daici Ano, Inujima Art Project website

All lighting and cooling is done through passive cooling and natural light using the chimneys from the original refinery. ARUP contributed computer modeling and design for the no-carbon energy systems including wavy wall tunnels to maximize cooling, solar modeling to minimize heat absorption, and modeling of all potential climates and earthquake potential. There is also a grey water system that uses plants to clean waste water, which is then used for orange and olive trees. 

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