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.
Last month some friends and I participated in a volunteer tree-planting at Umi no Mori, a forest being created on a landfill island on the bay. I’ve written before how few Tokyo residents know about this ambitious project promoted during Tokyo’s failed second Olympic bid in 2007. Umi no Mori is meant to carry cool ocean breezes into Tokyo’s crowded urban core.
The tree planting was fun. We were in a group of twenty or so volunteers planting 500 trees in a 25 square meter section. There were about 25 varieties of trees, and we planted them very close together. I learned from one of the volunteer leaders that this dense planting encourages the trees to compete and grow faster than normal. One of the volunteers explained to me that this is part of Miyawaki Akira’s method for restoring forests on post-industrial greenfields.
Creating new waterfront parks and planting 500,000 trees is certainly a great thing for Tokyo. Still, I wonder if this project were less top-down and more open to the citizens what greater impacts this project could have:
1. By encouraging more people to participate in the creation of the park, it would be a great chance to explain to Tokyo citizens about native trees and habitats. It would be awesome to link planting new trees in the Tokyo Bay with also adding greenery in every Tokyo neighborhood, with active participation by city residents.
2. By opening even a small section now, more people can begin to experience the park and perhaps learn more about urban garbage. What precisely is being put into this landfill? How do the layers of garbage reflect our contemporary lifestyles? What can be done to reduce the amount of garbage that must be buried?
I think this park will eventually be fantastic. However, it’s a missed opportunity not to make its creation more participatory, more transparent, more public, more connected to the rest of the city, more educational, and a catalyst for public and collective rethinking of the urban environment and waste production.
Ambassador Cedeno of Costa Rica and his wife Tauli, and Edoble’s Jess Mantell and her friend Miho participated with me.
These NHK images show how, over the past several centuries, Tokyo filled in the bay, built canals, and later, in the last satellite image, filled in the canals. (Via Mutant Frog Travelogue).
Before the rainy season and summer heat, I took a few day trips in Tokyo. One of the more remarkable places is Yumenoshima (夢の島), which means Dream Island.
It was begun in the 1960s as a place to store huge amounts of garbage by creating a large island in Tokyo Bay. Today it has an enormous incinerator, spectacular greenhouse for plants, a gym, a marina, and some overgrown park areas.
Of the palms I recognized the Canary Island palm, and what look like Mediterranean palms. Mostly deserted excepted for a few people going to the gym and cut off from the city by freeways, the park is large and somewhat mysterious. I love how the area around the incinerator and marina are full of surveillance video cameras and speakers everywhere playing muzak.
Interesting New York Times article about how zero waste is moving from fringe to mainstream, including Yellowstone National Park (plant-based cups and utensils), an Atlanta restaurant (composting on premises), and Honda North America (no packaging means no dumpster at factories).
Food waste, 13% of United States trash, releases methane– a climate warming, greenhouse gas– when sealed in landfills without oxygen. Composting provides non-petroleum fertilizers. Other initiatives include bio-degradable packaging, recycling, and re-using.
Walking in Tsukishima is an interesting contrast between old and new, green alleys and wide boulevards, wood houses and new construction.
Some of the alleys are remarkably well planted. The alley in the photo above seems to benefit from trees whose roots forced themselves out of their pots and through the pavement. Tsukishima and Tsukudajima survived the earthquake and the war, but the pace of modern development has outpaced preservation.
More photos after the jump.