Odaiba

Wildlife pets on parade near Odaiba beach

お台場で一番意外だったことは珍しい動物を見たことです。ペットをどうして飼いたいのかわかりませんでしたが、オーナーたちの愛情と公共の光景が楽しかったです。イチオピアの亀とプレーリードッグと一緒にいると、だれかが話しかけてきて、知らない人と会うことが簡単になります。

One of the unexpected pleasures of visiting Odaiba was exploring the close-knit community of exotic pet owners on the lawn just across from the artificial beach. We met an enormous Ethiopian turtle and two families of prairie dogs.

I confess that my joy for growing plants does not confer any insight into pet ownership. I personally prefer plants over animals when it comes to extra-species cohabitation. Still, I was amazed at the owners’ love for their pets and also the public spectacle they create. The pets are both extra-human companions and also intermediaries for meeting strangers of all ages.

A freeway runs through Odaiba

お台場の駅から浜に行く途中で、この大きな高速道路を渡らなければなりません。空いた所有地のほうが開発されたものより多いです。だから、出入り口のふたつが放棄されて、そこに植物が育っています。浜からの景色は楽しいです。港やスカイラインやレインボーブリッジや小型の自由の女神が見えます。この組み合わせはちょっと奇妙です。

Exiting the subway station in Odaiba, the way to the famed “beach” with city view includes walking past vast parking lots and then over this eight lane freeway.

What’s amazing about this view is that in addition to the enormous freeway, there are abandoned ramps on both sides, that are gradually being reclaimed by plants. Is land so value-less that this waste is considered appropriate?

There are still more empty than developed parcels on Odaiba, an urban development project with mixed results. The focus on freeways, parking lots, and chain restaurants and stores often makes it feel like a generic exurban landscape.

I hear that it is a popular place for dates. But I’ve been there only three times in as many years. Most recently I was there to get a ride to Umi no Mori for a volunteer tree planting day (more on that later). But a few extra hours gave me my first taste of Odaiba itself.

Once across the freeway and past the mall, there are some beautiful public spaces including an artificial beach. There are views of the port, the Tokyo skyline with the Rainbow Bridge, and some odd built decor that includes a mini Statue of Liberty on land.

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