I bought this flower from my friend Katayama Yosuke of Shokubutsu Freak at the UNU weekend farmers market. Its North American provenance mixes nicely with Japanese morning glory, tropical bananas, and an olive tree.
On my way to the station, I first notice a large truck parked in front of an old house. A minute further down the small street, this orange-haired youth greets me, and points at his shoes, saying “these are Japanese tabi.” Tabi are the mitten-like shoes worn by Japanese construction workers and farmers. He very willingly posed for his portrait, with the demolition site in the background.
This is the start of a series on the demolition of two adjacent Nakano houses. One was, at one time, an elegant and understated Showa-era home, with clean lines and a few blue ceramic roof tiles as decoration. It’s neighbor is a more international-style home from perhaps the 1970s. The demolition took place during the heat of summer in August.
Home demolitions give you a rare peak inside the homes of strangers, allowing you to see interior courtyards, old kitchens, and other “private spaces.” The demolition requires weeks of dismantling and trash sorting. There’s some machinery for the heavy lifting, but much of the energy for these small projects comes from youth.
@a_small_lab と @jessmantell と一緒に、Greenz Japan で東京ローカルフルーツの研究の話をしました。@SayakaFelixさんのおかげで、持続可能性に興味を持っている日本人の方たちと会話ができます。
@a_small_lab, @jessmantell, and I spoke with Greenz Japan about our research on Tokyo Local Fruit. I was glad to see our ideas, images, and preliminary research results published in Japanese. Greenz is an online magazine and community focused on sustainability in Japan.
With any excuse, I like to cut across Shinjuku Gyoen. There are so many different plants and landscapes to see there. I like the contrast of these photos. Above late summer maple trees are lush green, and reflected in a pond. Only the wooden edge suggests that it is a garden and not a natural wonder. Below is the Japanese garden, with a path through the pond and gardeners hard at work styling nature into a very specific shape. I love seeing both woody and stylized versions so close to each other.
Minimal and superb Omotesando Koffee is a modular cube inside an old Omotesando house. It’s supposed to last one year, after which the building may be “reformed” as the Japanese call it.
In addition to delicious coffee in a nearly hidden spot, Omotesando Koffee has the most perfect Japanese garden with two benches for seating. I love the stone path, old light fixtures, and the very Tokyo odd mix of wood, bamboo, and the ubiquitous cinder block.
It’s a very small garden, with many traditional and resilient Japanese plants, including hollyhock, maple, and hydrangea. Worth finding if you’re in the area. Hollyhock is becoming my favorite late summer flower.
For those far away, I have included an image of the sign outside (it looks like a black frame), and the clever way they turn standard paper bags into a lovely and minimal branded object.
Tokyo Sky Tree is rising on the eastern side of Tokyo. As the new digital television tower, it replaces Tokyo Tower as a symbol of “new” Tokyo. It’s scheduled for completion at the end of this year, and is already visible across Tokyo. In this picture, you can see Nakano Sakaue on the right and Sky Tree in the center.
The Japanese name for Sky Tree sounds funny in English, with two syllables becoming five unrecognizable ones. It’s スカイツリー, or Su-ka-i Tsu-rii. Japanese English is truly its own language. It’s also funny that they chose to use “tree” as a metaphor for this giant tower. In this view from here to there, across Tokyo, there are very few if any trees, green walls or roofs.
Tsuwabuki is a traditional Japanese garden flower in fall. Easy to cultivate and very pretty.
I love this Japanese garden flower, called “leopard plant” (farfugium japonicum) in English, or ツワブキ. It has bright yellow flowers in October and November, shiny green leaves, grows and spreads easily in shade, and is a traditional Japanese garden flower. This photo was taken at my friend Takada-san’s stunning garden.
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!
Inside the upscale Shin Marunouchi office tower, I saw a poster for Japanese wine outside an Italian restaurant. Japanese have recently become very interested in wine, and I had heard about a famous manga introducing wine to new drinkers that had been translated into French and become popular. It was interesting to see the promotion of national wine.
Today’s New York Times has a great “Room for Debate” feature where four cultural experts discuss the beauty of the Japanese bento box. Although seemingly off-topic from Tokyo Green Space, the discussion expresses relevant cultural aesthetics and the importance of beauty, simplicity, and care.
John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design, talks about simplicity and making due in an island nation with limited natural resources. I like his view that Japanese value “making less into more,” and traces bento creation to Kyoto food, a fanciful illusion that masks limited food resources.
Kenya Hara, art director of Muji and professor of Musashino Art University, talks about shokunin kishitsu, or craftsman’s spirit. By cleaning carefully, working diligently, or preparing lunch boxes with creativity, airport cleaners, construction workers and home-makers make the mundane into something beautiful.
I also like how he claims Japanese have a special ability, “an incapacity to see ugliness,” that allows them to ignore urban chaos, ugly architecture and bad signage. In the drabbest office or construction environment, there is still a space to enjoy a perfect bento lunch.
It is easy to see how some of these ideas are expressed in the beautification of public spaces: ordinary people working within the constraints of an often poorly designed urban landscape, creating small vignettes of beauty with a mix of artistry and care, and sharing these creations with minimal self-importance.
On my way to a meeting at an office tower in Akihabara, I noticed this subtle and attractive landscaping. I like how the garden breaks up a barren space and uses traditional elements of Japanese gardens– bamboo, rock, natural fencing,and emptiness– in a non-traditional scale and grouping.