Meiji Jingu

Sacred trees in courtyard of Meiji Jingu

この二つの大きい木を繋ぐ神道の飾りはとても素敵だと思います。明治神宮で。

I love this hemp rope and lightening-bolt like paper decoration that makes visible the sacredness of the mature trees in the center of Meiji Jingu shrine. Approaching the shrine through a magnificent planned forest, visitors sense that this place has been set apart from a city that is in state of constant change.

Mobile bonsai shop on Omotesando sidewalk

Omotesando is Tokyo’s most exclusive shopping street, a zelkovia-lined street of international brands for sale in buildings designed by world-renowned architects (Dior, Ralph Lauren, Channel, Louis Vuitton, etc). Surpassing Ginza for shopping, Omotesando also has spiritual significance as the entrance to Meiji Jingu shrine.

Rushing to an appointment, I was stunned to see this mobile bonsai shop outside a construction site. It’s typical in Tokyo that cycles of renewal involve demolition, scraping, and rebuilding. More surprising is to see how this plant sales person has staked out valuable real estate for a shop that can be unloaded from the three-wheeled scooter’s back trunk.

The trunk itself is used as a display case, and the front of the scooter covered in a banner announcing that its owner is selling bonsai plants.

Both in terms of retail structure and goods, the incongruity could not be greater: mobile and monument, formal and informal, luxury and sidewalk, imported and indigenous, fashion and plants.

Palm trees in Tokyo, Seto Inland Sea & Yakushima

Palm trees in Tokyo, Jason Dewees

San Francisco palm expert Jason Dewees, of Flora Grubb Gardens, recently visited Tokyo, the Seto Inland Sea and Yakushima, and documented his horticultural findings on the International Palm Society’s travel forum. Together we created Palm Sundae several years ago in Northern California. Above is one of his photos.

Packed with photos, Jason’s post is an expert traveler’s guide to urban trees and plants with a palm focus, as well as Seto Inland Sea palms and exotic plants found on Yakushima, Japan’s wettest place whose high mountains feature ancient Cryptomeria trees (commonly called cedar in English and sugi in Japanese). In Tokyo, Jason identified two main types of palm trees: Trachycarpus fortunei, self-seeding in roadside plant beds, in small parks, as well as in the wooded areas of Meiji Jingu, and Tracheycarpus wagnerianus in residential gardens. Trachycarpus fortunei is known in Japanese as shuro (シュロ, 棕櫚), and has been used for many traditional crafts including paper making and brooms. Jason also discovered and photographed in Tokyo potted and in the ground Rhapis palms, both common and unusual.

Fall ikebana at Meiji Jingu

Fall ikebana at Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu last weekend had a fall ikebana display. This was my favorite combination of fall foliage and bright contrasting flower, with an understated ceramic vase.

It was fun to see the extremely stylized ikebana in the forest of Meiji Jingu, next to the shrine with its enormous trees and the endless procession of Sunday weddings shielded by giant red umbrellas and thronged with photo-snapping tourists. The ikebana display was a mostly ignored moment of quiet dignity amidst the clash of tradition and modernity, upper class families and international tourists, sacred, stylized and natural.

Fall has been wonderfully mild, with the zelkova (keyaki in Japanese) trees starting to turn yellow. Of the many ginkos (icho), I have seen just one already turned yellow.