Shibaura Houseの依頼で、Kanto Tour Guideの杉並ツアーを書きました。先週、そのツアーを実際に一緒に歩いてみました。最初にとんきという一番好きなトンカツ屋で昼食を食べました。Kanto Tour Guideについては、こちらへどうぞ。
Shibaura House asked 10 foreigners living in Kanto to design half day and one day tours, primarily for Japanese to re-discover their country with a new perspective. I wrote a short guide for Suginami, starting with my favorite Higashi Koenji tonkatsu restaurant named Tonki. Shibaura House even made a small tour group flag. I think the chef was surprised by our visit. Afterwards, we visited Amp Coffee, cookie shop Steka & Mojl, Kuge Crafts (手仕事屋久家), and the Suginami Childrens’ Traffic Park near Zenpukuji river.
There’s some great photos on Shibaura House’s Facebook page. Also here. More information about all 10 tours on their website.
Last week I made a quick curry rice lunch using Muji curry plus a store-bought tomato and home-grown snow peas. Snow peas are now my favorite Tokyo winter plant: decorative, edible, fast-growing, and vertical.
I got inspired by seeing a neighbor’s garden in November, buying starter plants, and watching them grow, and finally eating them. There’s at least a few more lunches ripening just outside my high-rise kitchen.
Update: Digging in the canvas pot that holds one of the peas, I came across the nursery tag. Apparently the two varieties are called キヌサヤエンドウ and ゆうさや。
Today’s New York Times has a great “Room for Debate” feature where four cultural experts discuss the beauty of the Japanese bento box. Although seemingly off-topic from Tokyo Green Space, the discussion expresses relevant cultural aesthetics and the importance of beauty, simplicity, and care.
John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design, talks about simplicity and making due in an island nation with limited natural resources. I like his view that Japanese value “making less into more,” and traces bento creation to Kyoto food, a fanciful illusion that masks limited food resources.
Kenya Hara, art director of Muji and professor of Musashino Art University, talks about shokunin kishitsu, or craftsman’s spirit. By cleaning carefully, working diligently, or preparing lunch boxes with creativity, airport cleaners, construction workers and home-makers make the mundane into something beautiful.
I also like how he claims Japanese have a special ability, “an incapacity to see ugliness,” that allows them to ignore urban chaos, ugly architecture and bad signage. In the drabbest office or construction environment, there is still a space to enjoy a perfect bento lunch.
It is easy to see how some of these ideas are expressed in the beautification of public spaces: ordinary people working within the constraints of an often poorly designed urban landscape, creating small vignettes of beauty with a mix of artistry and care, and sharing these creations with minimal self-importance.