keyaki

Omotesando’s zelkova trees add style with full fall foliage

omotesando_fall_leaves_shoppers
表参道のケヤキはグローバルブランドの店を引き立てています。この背の高いケヤキはいつもきれいです。特に秋は、魔法を感じます。

Called keyaki in Japanese, these elegant trees give distinction to Tokyo’s global brand shopping street. These trees are gorgeous year-round, but especially in fall.

Zelkova are leafing out on Omotesando

表参道のケヤキの若葉が出てきています。

Zelkova, called keyaki in Japanese (ケヤキ), are a gorgeous Tokyo street tree. The best boulevards of mature zelkova are in Asagaya and Omotesando. Here you can see the branches are just leafing out. In the back of the detail image is Itoh Toyo’s sculptural building for Tods that appears to be built of zelkova branches rather than steel.

I have been working most of March and early April in Nishi Azabu Juban, and I often bike to the office. Biking in Tokyo is fun for discovering back streets, but its also fun to speed along a straight boulevard, especially one with such a magnificent canopy. These photos were taken near my new favorite retro van turned into mobile espresso shop, Motoya Express.

One thousand year old zelkova tree

At the entrance to a public elementary school near our apartment is an enormous tree that I frequently pass by. On the other side of the entrance is a beautiful cherry tree. I didn’t pay any attention to the larger tree until the husband remarked that it sports a sign declaring it a “thousand year old zelkova” (in Japanese, it’s keyaki, けやき).

I went back, examined the tree more carefully, and took some photos. Does anyone know if this one thousand year designation is literal or figurative? It seems incredible, especially when compared with what I thought was an ancient ginko tree at Kishbojin Temple in Zoushigaya, reportedly 600 years old.

Looking carefully at this zelkova tree, I can see that there are huge fissures in the trunk and the tree has been pruned radically, including all the main branches and even the base close to the ground. I would like to think that this tree is a local treasure, and that someone is taking good care of it. Its age gives it character, and its canopy is still very impressive.

Fall ikebana at Meiji Jingu

Fall ikebana at Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu last weekend had a fall ikebana display. This was my favorite combination of fall foliage and bright contrasting flower, with an understated ceramic vase.

It was fun to see the extremely stylized ikebana in the forest of Meiji Jingu, next to the shrine with its enormous trees and the endless procession of Sunday weddings shielded by giant red umbrellas and thronged with photo-snapping tourists. The ikebana display was a mostly ignored moment of quiet dignity amidst the clash of tradition and modernity, upper class families and international tourists, sacred, stylized and natural.

Fall has been wonderfully mild, with the zelkova (keyaki in Japanese) trees starting to turn yellow. Of the many ginkos (icho), I have seen just one already turned yellow.

Omotesando moss

Omotesando moss on kayaki

Omotesando is known for its parade of imported brands: Dior, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, etc. It also has an amazing canopy of zelkova trees (called keyaki or 欅 in Japanese). This photo taken on a rainy day earlier this week shows the trees covered in moss. Looking up from the busy sidewalk, you see many shades of green, bold patterns, and soaring structure that are oblivious to fashion and commerce.

Asagaya Zelkova Tunnel

Asagaya Zelkovia Tunnel

Perhaps the most beautiful street in western Tokyo is this Zelkovia (keyaki or 欅)tree tunnel on Nakasugi Douri in Asagaya. This photo was taken near the Minami Asagaya station of the Marunouchi line and the Suginami Ward Assembly Hall, looking towards the JR Asagaya station.

While this blog celebrates the anarchy of ordinary gardeners and the visionary horticultural initiatives, sometimes nothing can compare to government planting of street trees, and their maintenance over many decades. This Zelkovia tunnel always astonishes me.