May

May is a great time for roses around Tokyo

どのバラにも香りがあるべきだと思います。けれども、香りがなくても、バラを見たら、いつも元気にならずにはいられない。

I have seen some lovely roses walking in Tokyo recently. The red one above is from the border between Sakuragaoka 桜丘町 and Uguisudani 鶯谷町, a leafy upscale neighborhood ten minutes from the world famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing (called scramble, スクランブル in Japanese). I like how this red rose has escaped a private garden and is now attaching itself to the street mirror meant to prevent collisions.

The yellow rose is from a house in Nakano, near a pedestrian walkway built on an old creek. I wish all roses had fragrance, but whenever you see roses, it is hard not to feel cheerful.

May flowers in front of my apartment building

Dokudami in front of apartment building

Dokudami (どくだみ) is one of my favorite Tokyo weeds. It grows on cinder block walls and sidewalk cracks. Above is a large patch in front of my apartment building in May. The roughly 2 by 5 meter strip is a never changing display of flowers tended by the residents; its wildness contrasts with the clipped hedge on the other side of the entry path and heavily pruned trees in the parking lot.

Here are some other May flowers, including what is called in Japan “American jasmine.” The middle two plants I do not know the names. The last one is Datura, originally from Mexico.

"American Jasmine" in May, in front of apartment building

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Two Tokyo sidewalks

Hollyhocks on Nakano sidewalk

Above is a photo of a Nakano sidewalk on a busy boulevard. Between pedestrians and the street is an organized planted green strip with railing, ginko trees and azalea bushes. In May, seemingly out of nowhere, giant pink hollyhocks have appeared. What is amazing is that they extend over 1 kilometer on the sunny north side of the boulevard. Someone must have planted a few, which then went viral.

Below is a sidewalk and street in Odaiba, with corporate planting on the left and public planting on the right. Despite the greater green quotient, this Odaiba sidewalk is generally lacking in street traffic, pedestrian traffic and any un-planned greenery. There is something dead and sad about these streets, where large convention centers, a few offices and shopping malls are interspersed with empty lots.

Odaiba sidewalk