On my Tokyo balcony, I am growing fig, olive, banana, and this persimmon bonsai. It’s my smallest. I took photos of it last year at the same time.
These persimmon fruits are well past ripe, and just clinging to the branches. At dusk, the moon seems to be the same size as the fruit.
My balcony garden is starting to perk up for spring, but this persimmon bonsai is still dormant. I remember the day I brought it back two years ago. My neighbor asked me what I have, and then gave me a sad look. “You know it takes eight years for persimmons to fruit, don’t you?” she asked me. I am more patient than I look.
Walking in the back streets in Jingumae, I came across this fantastic abandoned housing project. Soon the lot will no doubt be scraped and redeveloped into luxury residences with minimal landscaping. Until then, it’s an island of nature, full of persimmons, fall foliage, and wildlife.
There are many urban sights in Tokyo that are jarring to newcomers, perhaps none more so than the giant electricity poles. Well, there’s also garbage incinerators with tall chimneys in every neighborhood, elevated freeways, endless rows of fluorescent lights stacked high on exposed residential hallways, and the zeal for paving over almost all surfaces.
This photo was taken near Shin Koenji where the elevated main power line crosses Itsukaichi Kaido, a road that dates back to Edo and maybe earlier. You can just make out a silhouetted ripe persimmon fruit. Sometimes these unattractive elements create their own rhythm and patterns in urban life.
Many foreigners are surprised just how full of persimmons Tokyo is in the fall. Maybe you’d miss them if you stick to inside the newest malls and corporate developments. But it must be one of the most popular residential trees, and a true marker of fall.
This one is behind Shiho ceramic studio, and the funny story is that my in law teachers say that this year there aren’t so many fruit. Despite being an off year in a two year cycle, there’s actually still quite a lot of fruit. My mother in law is a great cook, and she uses these fall persimmons and also small sour plums in summer for food she shares with students and friends. She didn’t plant these trees but has gotten a lot of use from them in the past ten years.
Some persimmon trees produce fruit that’s best eaten raw, others dried, or cooked into jam or other sweets. For me it’s an acquired taste, but seeing these orange globes dangling across Tokyo is undeniably beautiful.
I am a big fan of espaliered trees. By pruning a tree into a 2D shape, it fits into the dense urban landscape. Here’s a mature, espaliered persimmon tree in front of a public school in Aoyama. I wonder if the kids will eat the fruit.
I am going to be posting this week different fall fruit trees I’ve seen over the past few weeks. What is your favorite urban fruit tree?
I am surprised to see Tokyo fruit in December:
cherries (crab apples) and baby persimmons on a major boulevard.
I did not expect to see
cherries crab apples and mini-persimmons in Tokyo during December, and particularly not on the major boulevard near my home. In the small strip of land between the sidewalk and the road, someone has created a flower pot garden that includes these winter fruits. I wonder if the gardener is a shop owner, shop employee, or apartment building resident. Thanks to Twitter’s @hizaga for first spotting them, and @JasonDewees for identifying them.
So many city dwellers think they have no space to grow anything. Recently I posted photos of a persimmon tree near my apartment that is three stories tall and full of fruit. I went back to take a shot of its trunk. Actually, it turns out that there are two trees growing in a space no bigger than the depth of an air conditioning unit. This small space provides sufficient soil to produce hundreds of fruit each year. There’s even room for ten potted plants spilling onto the street, a broom, and some ladders. The ability to create massive greenery and even food in such limited space always amazes me.
Update: A reader asked me to provide more context images for these persimmons growing in such a small spot. You can see below that they are growing in a tiny lane the width of one car, and that they reach out from their narrow bases to provide a tall canopy between the buildings. And there’s a third tree of the same size extending through the neighbor’s front cinderblock wall.
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.
I take care of my relatives ceramic studio garden. Last year’s 5bai midori “satoyama unit,” installed during a fall typhoon, is coming back with lots of new growth. This photo shows off the yellow flowers “yamabuki”, a vigorous Japanese shrub. Sometimes you see white flowers, or multi-petalled yellow ones.
Shiho ceramic studio‘s back yard is a small l-shape raised beds. Much of it is shaded by persimmon and plum trees and the neighbors’ homes. The garden includes a volunteer shurro palm tree (しゅろ, 棕櫚) and a Japanese herb called sanshou (サンショウ) that traveled from the neighboring store’s bicycle parking lot.
A lot of what I planted at the end of last year has come back, including hydrangea, lilies of the valley, hostas, rosemary, jasmine, and a lantern flower vine that almost fully covers the chain link fence. And the giant cymbidium orchid has been blooming through April. It’s great to hear that the ceramic teachers and students are enjoying the garden.
I think the eight bags of compost helped a lot in improving the soil and make this shade garden thrive.
One plant that didn’t survive the Tokyo winter is a plant commonly called “purple princess” in San Francisco. To fill the gap left by the plant and my hope for it growing large fast and covering the cinder block wall. I brought over a kanamemochi shrub: a quick growing and very popular Tokyo shrub with distinctive red, new spring leaves. I also planted a yuzu lemon tree and a white single petal yamabuki.