I love this canal view, the layers of visible history in buildings, and the wide water that evokes pre-industrial Edo life. Even the regrettable additions, like the elevated freeways, show how Tokyo constantly evolves not through great design but by continual addition to what was already there.
There is so much transportation infrastructure on this wide canal in Shibaura Ichome. I also love how the small post-war house at the corner has been built up over the years with additions, and then surrounded by a taller modernist office and more recent, larger buildings that are more about function than form. There’s something very calming about seeing this large expanse of water, and a view of how Tokyo became layered with new structures over time.
In summer, lush foliage dominates my balcony garden. The morning glory curtain continues to bloom facing the sun, but inside there’s a cacophony of leaf shape and color tone, including olive, fig, and camellia. With so much new growth, you can hardly see the narrow wood path.
The top two photos face west and east. The lowest photo also faces east, and shows the layering of shoulder high and knee high plants. The grass plant in the white ceramic has some red leaves, which make a dynamic accent to the many shades of green.
Many times people cannot believe it when I tell them that I have hundreds of plants on my tiny Tokyo balcony. I guess it’s a “more is more” philosophy, combined with a reluctance to reject attractive plants I buy each week.
The bushes’ wave shape makes a nice contrast with the angular buildings tightly packed.
Ome Kaido is a large boulevard in my neighborhood that dates to Edo times when this area was largely fields. I like how the ginko trees provide a unifying element to a heterogenous streetscape of abandoned post-war buildings mixed with newer commercial, residential and even light industrial buildings from every decade since.
Directly across the street from this corner is a ten story office building. I noticed the roof-top sports facility years before I recognized the logo at the entrance that marks it as the headquarters of one of Japan’s leading adult content companies.
The small size of my balcony garden means that each plant is always juxtaposed with others. In the center is a pink flower from an annual that’s lasted two years already and whose name I’ve forgotten. It’s in a white ceramic pot I made, and next to the basil I’ve been eating all summer. The broad leaf is a bird of paradise houseplant that is spending some time outdoors after becoming an ant magnet.
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.
This image sums up my love of Tokyo green spaces. In the background is the iconic Docomo Tower in Shinjuku. In the foreground is a typical Tokyo sight: a lot where the old structure has been raised is now used for hourly parking. In the middle is an older residence whose wild garden is thriving through neglect and the absence of redevelopment. Tokyo is a dense place full of the iconic and prosaic, living nature and concrete structures, traces of the past and constant change.
This incredibly narrow garden in Nishi Azabu Juban is overflowing with plants. I love it. Most people would think there’s no room for a garden, but someone was determined to live with greenery. Technically this narrow street does not even have a sidewalk, just a narrow space between road and home. I love the many layers, textures, and colors.
Chris has taken images from last month’s Tokyo DIY Gardening workshop at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, and created an amazing interactive map of Tokyo green space.
Using photos, pens, markers, origami, and other stuff, 30 participants drew a giant collaborative map of Tokyo’s existing and imagined green spaces. In this interactive version, Chris shows off the final map, which was two by four meters, with detailed images of 46 spaces.
Beyond our initial ideas, the collaborative map produced a huge variety of green spaces at many different scales, all of which make or could make Tokyo a livable city. We are planning to further document this mapping workshop, including other layers and voices, and we’d like to share it with a wide audience. Please feel free to link to it, leave comments, and share with others.