Bare pocket parks have more gravel than plants

On my Meguro walk, I noticed two pocket parks, one newer and one older. Both have a similar plan: wide open space with gravel, and minimal plants, play areas, and seating. I know that one reason Tokyo parks are created this way is to provide a gathering space for emergencies. Yet if emergencies are an every 10, 20 or even 50 year experience, wouldn’t it make more sense to get better use out of the parks in the meantime? In an emergency the plants could be justifiably trampled, but at least they would provide more active natural environments for daily life.

During my weekday visit, I noticed two office guys taking a smoking break (separately), a senior taking a rest, and some high school kids on their cellphones. It would be great if there was also room for vegetable growing, butterfly gardens, bird watchers, and wildlife habitat.

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.


Expressways divide neighborhoods and repel people

Tokyo Green Space focuses largely on how green space and plants make the city livable. Recent walks through Shibuya, Meguro, and Sasazuka made me realize anew the tremendous obstacles created by elevated freeways that cut through Tokyo.

Above is the Shuto 4 expressway in Sasazuka, known as Koshu Kaido (甲州街道). There is a high speed expressway on top of an eight lane surface road. Crossing this mass of asphalt, traffic and emissions requires climbing a pedestrian overpass that goes between the levels.

Below is the 246 expressway going west from Shibuya into Meguro. If I am not mistaken, there is an elevated freeway, a surface road, and a below grade highway as well.

These massive structures are the opposite of the small lanes that make Tokyo feel so village-like and livable. There is some potential to “add” greenery to these structures. But I wonder why there isn’t more discussion in Tokyo, as there is in other world cities, about the potential for reclaiming these structures for non-automobile uses, through demolition or reuse as sky parks.

“Pure living” idea salon tomorrow night in Tokyo

PSFK Tokyo pure living idea salon

New York’s PSFK is organizing an “ideas salon,” sponsored by Nissan, about “pure living” and how it is manifested in design, technology, urban living and transportation. It’s tomorrow evening at Claska in Meguro, and unfortunately sold out.

Speakers include Peter Rojas – Technology Guru, Founder at gdgt, Engadget and Gizmodo, Marc Alt – Green Visionary, Founder at Marc Alt + Partners, Mark Dytham – Creative Catalyst, Partner at Klein Dytham architecture, and Founder of Pecha Kucha, Rie AzumaLifestyle Architect, Azuma Architecture, Danny Choo – Japan Sub-Culture Authority, Mirai Inc.,, Hiromi Matsubara – Green Media Activist, Co-founder,, and Piers Fawkes – Trends Expert, Founder at PSFK (moderator).

(Disclosure: Piers treated me to a lovely breakfast this morning in Shibuya).

Hanabouzu flower and plant shop

Hanabouzu moss ball, photo by Britton Watkins

My friend Britton Watkins was visiting Tokyo on business, and shared with me some of his favorite plant and design stores. Above is his photo of a moss ball in Hanabouzu (花坊主)  flower and plant shop in Takaban, Meguro (near Gakugei Daigaku).


Like Sinajina, Hanabouzu offers highly refined, small scale plants. They have modern bonsais, moss balls, and cut flowers in a space next door to a well-known antique shop Otsu, and they share a similar rustic Japanese aesthetic.

There are more photos after the jump.

Continue reading