I love this mix of nature and human effort. Against the moss wall, the trees cast shadows, and the orange lollipop mirror guides drivers. In Izu.
These were some of the first ceramic flowerpots I made at my in-laws studio, Kuge Crafts. Here I’ve added some bright yellow and orange marigolds that I picked up at the nearby supermarket for 100 yen each. The ceramic are thick and heavy, which makes them ideal for a sometimes windy location. And the white glaze makes them easy to match with different flowers and herbs.
On the long walk from Kyodo station to Nodai (Tokyo University of Agriculture), there’s a house and large garden where the residents are always gardening. This year they created a huge, two meter high trellis of fusenkazura (フウセンカズラ). The name is literally balloon kudzu, and despite looking delicate, it’s very hardy. The vine produces lots of white flowers, followed by a multitude of green balls that then turn orange. This year, I’m growing two specimens on our balcony.
Tokyo residents and small businesses welcome the gods in temporary homes built of bamboo, pine, and plum blossoms.
I love how the best ones are hand-crafted from pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms. They are intended to be temporary homes for the Shinto gods (kami, 神様). I like the idea that you can create a temporary house for the gods to visit at new year. The three heights of the kamomastu represent heaven, humanity, and earth- in descending order. The shimekazari are smaller, with Shinto rope holding charms such as oranges, folded paper, rice straw, and ferns.
Shimekazari (標飾り) and Kadomatsu (門松) are traditional New Year’s ornaments placed on walls and on the sidewalks outside shops and homes. The city simultaneously empties of people and fills with physical connections to mountains and spirits. This year I took photos of the widest variety I could find in the areas I visit on typical days: on a car bumper, outside a sento, next to a wall of cigarette advertisements, on a busy boulevard, outside a barbershop, pachinko parlor, 24 hour convenience store, and a department store.
After the holiday, these decorations should be burned at a shrine. By mid-January, they are already a faded memory.
See more photos after the jump.
A documentary television producer from Canada contacted me about filming an episode for their History Channel show about the history of sanitation in the world’s great cities called “Trasholopolis.” I was flattered that they had read this blog and my articles, and want to include me in their Tokyo episode.
I have posted the Kanda paper that was presented at the International Federation of Landscape Architects conference (co-authored with Matthew Puntigam and Professor Suzuki Makoto of Tokyo University of Agriculture). But I realize that I didn’t have a good size image of the Kanda from Nakano Fujimichio, with an orange tree in the foreground and the skyscrapers of Nishi Shinjuku in the background.
Tokyo’s large boulevards often have grand ginko and zelkova trees. On the back streets, Tokyo gardeners grow all sorts of ornamental and fruit trees. Recently, I have noticed oranges, persimmons, and even pomegranate growing in my neighbors’ tiny gardens and balconies.
It would be great to see even more fruit growing in Tokyo and the world’s largest cities.
This exuberant, orange flowered vine seems to launch itself off the side of a small two story residence. I love the contrast of the vine with the equally excessive, overhead power lines. The vine is part of the amazing multi-family residential building that is entirely covered in plants, which I included as part of a vertical garden comparison.
It’s also another example of how a tree planted in a styrofoam container managed to send roots through the disintegrating styrofoam, down a sidewalk crack, and into the earth below. It is amazing what a great climate Tokyo provides for plants to go renegade.
We also saw this gorgeous orange tree full of fruit. The oranges, the old house, and the hill above make you feel that you are far from the big city.
Before the new year, I took a walk with Alastair Townsend, an American architect in Tokyo, from Yanaka to the new Sky Tree in Mukojima. Above is a sushi restaurant in Kiyokawa, a mostly desolate stretch in the middle of the walk. I was impressed how the shop owners created such a dense jungle in the small space between the restaurant and the sidewalk. The variety and density are magnificent, and it is only with careful observation can you observe the plastic pots supporting this small forest, and the chain link fence buried many years ago in plants.
After the jump, some more images including a decorative rope and bamboo structure covering a sculpted pine tree, the contrast between old and new houses, a residential orange and bonsai persimmon, a pygmy date palm that survives the Tokyo winter, and the oddly named “Sky Tree.”
Walking on a small street in Hiroo, in central Tokyo, we heard a strange noise and saw some people staring at a persimmon tree. On closer examination, we saw that there was a flock of wild green parrots gathered in this tree. The green on orange colors perched on a leaf-less tree is sublime.
I have seen wild parrots throughout San Francisco, and there was even a movie about them. I didn’t realize that Tokyo was warm enough for them to survive outdoors. I wonder how many there are.
Speaking with a woman recently about urban ecology, she told me that she enjoys city bird-watching. It made me realize that bird-watchers, particularly those who enjoy their hobbies in the city, can be an important voice for improving urban landscapes and habitats. Maybe urban bird-watchers are analogous to surfers who have been active in the clean ocean movement.