This is the view from one end of our narrow balcony to the other, facing east towards Shinjuku. The twin towers are the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, and to the right is the Park Hyatt hotel from the movie Lost in Translation. In the foreground is the fig tree, a new addition this summer.
This year’s green curtain is filling in. Already leafing out are the perennial Okinawa morning glory, jasmine, and a pink rose. The kanamemochi (photina) bush is about 1.5 meters tall, and brings the garden right up to the sliding glass kitchen doors.
The laundry line in our Tokyo flat is ever present, in the middle of the garden and directly in view from the kitchen table desk. Whether decorative or not, the laundry line is a porous border between inside and out, home and neighbors.
My handkerchief collection now includes the Bulgarian Kotooshu, one of the longest serving ozeki sumo wrestlers, as well as Asashoryu, the Mongolian yokozuna forced out of the profession a few years ago for bad behavior. Given the function of handkerchiefs, perhaps it’s not the most appropriate form of hero worship.
On a wet morning, the balcony foliage forms a mini jungle between apartment and city.
This dill has been providing a nice flavor to our food for the past months. It tastes so expensive, and it’s fun to walk a few steps from the kitchen and grab some leaves. This ceramic pot is from the first series I made when I first came to Tokyo four years ago and began studying at Shiho ceramic studio.
I was a little sad that this red pepper never grew past mini-size. But its the perfect size for this bonsai pot that I also use for air plants.
I like this delicate, flowering vine growing outside the kitchen window at my friends Ian, Yuki, and Pat’s house.
This half-ripe strawberry looks very cinematic at night. The garden has a different feeling at night and during the day.
I like to have ready access to fresh herbs, and to use nasturtium flowers in salads. These potted herbs on the balcony are close to the kitchen so I can use them often.
Showing off 11,000 tulips specially planted, the Netherlands Embassy opens its gardens to the public on April 13 and 14. I was fortunate to go the first day, and see the splendid varieties of color, height, and shape before the rains started.
One of Tokyo’s oldest and most renowned garden maintenance firm expertly selected dozens of hybrids, created a grand walkway, and also integrated tulips into the main garden of the residence. Planning extended the season as long as possible, which I heard is about three weeks.
Amidst all the bright colors in this grand setting, I felt like I was in a mini-Keukenhof crossed with Gatsby’s home in West Egg. We caught a glimpse of two chefs working in the kitchen, which made me think this diplomatic outpost with 400 years of history is not so far from Downton Abbey.
If you have a chance, please go today, or in the fall on Culture Day when both the residence and garden are open to the public.
More indoor plant portrait photography.
I made this strange bonsai last summer with a small bi-colored grass, tall leafy tree, and gravel. It’s fun to watch the leaves turn deep red and fall. When it’s not inside, this plant is close to the kitchen window.
The season is turning. The air is suddenly much drier, the sky bluer, and the clouds puffy and dramatic. These late summer photos show the wildness I was able to achieve in my narrow balcony garden this year.
Above is the view from the kitchen door. There’s a tiny nursery school chair, an already fading sunflower, a last burst of blueberries, and murasaki shikibu, a fall flower that I just bought.
Below you can see the shelf full of my amateur ceramic flowerpots, which can also be seen from the living room. One pot has basil. I like how the garden path seems longer and more over-grown than it is.
A furin is a glass wind chime whose sound Japanese find cooling in summer; something about glass and metal striking. I was amazed to see this domestic symbol, along with a white chandelier (below), decorating two homes in this long row of wood and blue tarp cubes sheltering the homeless. (The furin is just to the right of the rolled up bamboo used to screen door).
I am struck by how incredibly orderly these living structures are, and how on a warm day when you gaze inside, the homes seem orderly and common place: tidy kitchens, matt floors, shelves and storage, on a scale just slightly smaller than what most Tokyo-ites live in.
This long alley of make-shift homes is just below Miyashita Park that paces the Yamanote line for a fe blocks. It’s just past Nonbei Yokocho and near the center of Shibuya. There was controversy over gentrification and corporate funding for city resources when the city accepted Nike sponsorship to renovate the park with design by Atelier Bow Wow. It seems the homeless merely migrated to the area just below the fenced-in skate park and fusball court.
Now it is a typically Tokyo close juxtaposition of semi-public and vacant space, design and non-design, and living, sports, drinking, and parking spaces.