Like a brief tropical holiday at very low cost


The same week I participated in the Umi no Mori tree planting, I had the opportunity to re-visit Yume no Shima, Tokyo’s most famous artificial island made of waste. This urban development started in the 1950s. Now it’s a vast area with a sports club, botanic garden, playing fields, semi-wild palm landscape, a marina, and a still functioning incinerator. It’s showing its age with deferred maintenance and sparse usage.

I love how it’s named “Dream Island.” This time I visited the botanic garden. On the outside is a row of papaya trees, which I thought too tropical to grow outdoors in Tokyo. There’s also a row of ceramic frog planters leading to the front door. A green house is a great place to go on a cold day, like a brief tropical holiday at very low cost.

Fantasy landscape with fountain, palm, and odd characters

A miniature fantasy landscape freely shared on a Tokyo curbside.

ミニチュアのファンタジー風景が舗道 の縁石を占領している。

This tiny curbside garden is a fantasy landscape in miniature in what was probably dead space previously between the house and the road. There’s moving water, a palm tree, plants, and several odd characters. I found it just across the road from the giant tree on that former country lane that is now barely visible in Suginami, not far from Opera City.

The contents are fun in their whimsical incongruity. Even in this tiny space, there are several overlapping vignettes. A tiny palm tree joined by a sliver bunny and a character that appears to be a cross between European Romanticism and anime; several Sago palms (Cycas revoluta) beneath some mid-height bushes; and the fountain with water plants and a character trio with a helmeted princess, a red Cobra super-hero whose left arm is a semi-automatic weapon, and an over-sized yellow dog. The fountain features plants, a tiny cliff-side, and bathtub ducks.

The garden structure is very DIY: low-cost, anonymously designed, and highly imaginative. I love that the gardener is sharing this creation with the neighbors and passers-by. The garden’s minimal foundation is constructed mostly of  low-lying brick with some wood fencing. I particularly like the tag that shows the flowers that will bloom later.

Thanks again to @ArchitourTokyo for the great bike tour where we discovered this sculpture garden.

Small green wall improves sidewalk

Across from the 246 elevated freeway in Meguro I saw this simple green wall make of ficus vine. It only extends one story high, but it provides a nice experience for pedestrians on the sidewalk. Along with the typical ginko street tree and azalea bushes between the sidewalk and road, the wall uses minimal space to provide a green corridor. Apart from occasional trimming, I imagine it’s very low cost and low maintenance.


Vertical garden using ceramic pots

Omotesando vertical garden using ceramic pots

Just off Omotesando on Aoyama Dori is a three story vertical garden of ivy growing in giant ceramic pots. The load bearing structure must have added something to the cost, but the ceramic pots and ivy create a simple and low-cost vertical garden.

Vertical garden using ceramic pots

The garden wall is on the side of an office tower, and adds greenery and some whimsy while blocking the view of a concrete wall forming the side of the neighboring building. It also frames the side of the underground garage entrance.

Vertical garden using ceramic pots

Flowers and plants in Tokyo Metro men’s rooms

Plant in Tokyo Metro Iriya station

Recently I noticed plants and (fake) flowers in Tokyo Metro men’s rooms. Who puts them there? Janitors? Passengers? Station agents? I enjoy how an anonymous person has used low-cost greenery to improve these pedestrian spaces. Above is a vine growing out of a 2 liter bottle, sitting on top of tissue paper and “3D” face mask vending machine in Iriya. Below are blue plastic flowers sitting in vases made of small Yakult bottles, with aYakult, in Tsukishima.

Flowers in Tokyo Metro toilet, Tsukishima Flowers in Tokyo Metro toilet, Tsukishima