metal

Construction worker poses on top of truck, in front of his job site

nakano_demolition_teen_posing
 毎週、現場を通りかかると、同じ青年がいつも声をかけてくれました。仕事にとても誇りを持っているようでした。

For weeks, each time I passed the demolition site, the teenage worker would greet me. He seemed eager to pose for photographs. Here he is on top of the truck that hauls out metal scrap.

Showa window visible through the fruit trees

showa_house_trees_from_path_nakano

歩行者路で、昭和時代風の窓が柿と梨の木の後ろに見えます。中野で。

I pass this house frequently on the way to the station. The metal fence is truly ugly, but somehow from this angle, there is a beauty and mystery to this old home. They’re growing persimmons and pears.

Springtime at Omotesando Koffee. The small garden and old house make you feel like you’re on a country lane.

Omotesando Koffee の入口はとても素敵です。美味しいコーヒーが飲めるだけじゃなくて、小さい庭が四季を感じさせてくれます。春に、桜とモクレンが咲いていて、金属製の花瓶には毎週、違う花がいけてあります。おしゃれなお客さんは三年以上の常連で、バリスタオーナが東京に来る前に、大阪のカフェにも行きました。

This is the lovely entrance to Omotesando Koffee. It would be enough just being one of Tokyo’s best espresso coffee bars. O K also sells a single pastry that is eggy and square and incomparable. And O K has a micro-garden that is incredibly charming, with many traditional Japanese plants including maple and a lovely drooping cherry tree with long stemmed flowers.

The fashionable gentleman in the photo explained to me that he used to drink coffee at the Osaka coffee bar run by the same owner, before he moved to Tokyo three years ago. In the foreground is a lovely, metal sculpture and flower vase with understated petals.

Visiting Omotesando Koffee you feel like you’re on a country lane, not in the middle of a mega-city.

Traffic cone planter

賢いアイデアです。トラフィックコーンの上で、簡単な金属の仕掛けで、植木鉢を四個支えています。横に並んでいるので、スペースの効率が良いです。 高さの違いもおもしろいです。

What a clever idea! This simple metal structure places four flowerpots on a traffic cone. It’s very space efficient because all four are in a single line, with a slight variation in height.

Park signage: hand-drawn and printed

Thanks to the 30 people who participated in the Tokyo DIY Gardening workshop last night at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. We created an enormous collage map and shared interesting stories and images of Tokyo’s wonderful green spaces, existing and imagined. A big thanks to Chris Berthelsen for conceiving, preparing and motivating this participatory project. We’ll digitize the 4 meter by 2 meter map and post about it soon.

This post is about park signage, with images of hand-drawn and printed signs outside the 3331 Arts Chiyoda park. Alongside a lawn and some shade trees, the front park includes a rose garden with several varieties. I found it interesting that the map of the rose types was so ad hoc and temporary: written on paper and affixed with metal clips.

This very informal sign contrasts with a more typical sign found in Tokyo parks. Using child-like manga, the sign details the many forbidden activities.

Perhaps the most interesting warning is 「他人の迷惑になる行為はやめましょう」。Let’s not do anything that will disturb other people, below an image of baseball players. I am struck by how the image is so specific and the warning is so open to any interpretation. It invites the reader to imagine just how many possible actions could bother other people.

Do wind chimes keep you cooler?

Japanese believe that wind chimes, particularly the sound of glass on metal, make you feel cooler in the summer. I am not sure if I agree, but it’s a nice seasonal decoration. When the wind is too strong on my balcony, I use a clothes pin to silence it.

Simple wood bench provides resting place at city shrine

On my walk with Chris Berthelsen through Harajuku, Jingumae, and Sendagaya, we stumbled into the Hatomori shrine (鳩森神社). In front of its splendid Noh theater, we noticed several lovely and very simple benches made of logs and what look like giant metal staples. Along with plenty of shade, it’s great this city shrine also provides a place to rest.

French countryside in Ginza

Ginza pastry shop looks like French countryside

Walking in Tokyo always provides new discoveries. In Ginza, where global brands are housed in tall ultra-contemporary mid-rises, there are still small alleys and two story buildings. I was astounded to stumble upon this bakery housed in what seems the perfect simulation of the French countryside.

When Japanese set out to evoke a foreign scene, it is amazing how many details they add to create the perfect illusion. This bakery, Patisserie Qu’il fait bon, achieves its look with a simple two story structure with plentiful casement windows, a cobblestone driveway, and just slightly excessive exterior lighting. But perhaps even more effective is the landscaping: many layers of plants, all in pots, much like the humble gardens created by older ladies in countless residential streets. What makes this landscape at once bold and persuasive are the many layers, variety of colors that harmonize with the paint trim, and the assortment of metal and recycle wood plants with objects such as a rusted chair, a clock, some farm house wheels, and other bric-a-brac. I like how artfully “untamed” the landscape appears, despite being meticulously staged and styled.

Patisserie Qu'il fait bon

Dead space by design

Dead space, Shin Nakano, Tokyo Metro

Tokyo Green Space celebrates the ingenuity of people who create greenery in a city that is often poorly planned, dominated by concrete, and overly paved. However, it is worth pointing out the prevalence of dead spaces by design, often created by local governments and even Tokyo Metro.

Above is a nearly brand new elevator providing access to the Shin Nakano Marunouchi station of Tokyo Metro. The elevator occupies an odd shaped and small space between a road and parking lot, and between a pachinko parlor, a large apartment building and a busy street. Next to the rectilinear elevator and covered entrance is a sizeable triangular area bordered by a brown colored metal fence.

Clearly, the Metro does not want people to park their bikes in this small area, and is probably pleased that they have accomplished this goal. However, the fence has made this centrally located land a dead zone. So many other uses could be made with that space: a tree or two, a bench, a vegetable garden, a food cart, newspaper stand, a bulletin board for community events. Given the amount of local gardeners, I am certain that the Metro would not need to maintain the space with their own staff.

Dead space in Nakano

A similar dead triangle zone was created between a pedestrian path and a small street. Again, the design goal is to prevent vehicles from entering the pedestrian path (in the foreground with white tiles on the ground). Here, too, the brown metal fence creates a triangle of deadness, where the yellow and green poles would have seemed adequate for the job.

If the brown metal fence was not there, the space could also be used for much needed shade, a fruit tree, a community garden, or a bench. The creation of these dead spaces by government authorities suggests a lack of imagination and awareness.

Nakano Honcho dead space

Finally, this space between houses and apartments is filled with concrete, and apparently unused. It is unclear whether the space is public street, individually owned or somehow shared space between neighbors. In any case, it is a wasted opportunity for greenery and community.

Vertical rose garden in Aoyama

Aoyama vertical rose garden

On a prominent corner of Gaien-nishi Douri in Aoyama is this six story mixed use building with a vertical rose garden called Aoyama Art Works. On one side is all extra tall glass windows and a ground floor Specialized bike shop. On one of the smaller trapazoidal sides, framing the entry way, is a wall of yellow roses with incredibly thick vines.

Aoyama vertical rose garden

On close examination, the metal trellis structure also supports additional planter pots on the higher floors. The effect, however, is of one giant rose bush. It must look spectacular in full bloom. This is an impressive example of how a gigantic garden can be created with less than half a meter of depth on the sidewalk.

Aoyama Art Works yellow rose