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Australia’s Jacaranda geography textbook uses Ginza Farm photograph to introduce “Japan and Korea.”

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オーストラリアの地理の教科書が韓国と日本の章に私の写真を使ってくれました。銀座農園の写真です。とても良い教科書です。もちろん、世界の中心はオーストラリアになっています。

I was very flattered that one of Australia’s top geography textbooks, published by Wiley, included my photograph of Ginza Farm in their “Japan and Korea” page. My father in law was confused by the idea of the two countries together. I’d like to think it’s a hopeful gesture. Of course, since it’s an Australian textbook, the atlas is clearly centered on Australia and its immediate neighbors.

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Photographs and slides from Shibaura House’s Community Herb Garden event

先日の芝浦ハウスコミュニティー・ハーブ・ガーデンのプレゼンをアップロードしました。都市の初心者の方たちが植木鉢でハーブを育てることを応援します。東京で、ハーブは育てやすいので、和風と洋風の料理、カクテル、お茶、香り、そして、蝶の来る場所を作れます。

I’ve posted the photographs and slides from my recent talk at Shibaura House‘s Community Herb Garden event. My purpose was to encourage city residents to plant herbs because they are easy to grow and have many uses (culinary, cocktails, tea, scent, butterfly attractors).

New book features global artists & cultural figures talking about favorite places in Japan

Travel Guide to Aid Japan」という本は3.11の後、外国人にもっと日本を訪れるように勧めます。この本の編集者が、僕の「のんべい横丁」の写真を使いたいと連絡してくれました。世界の芸術家や作家やファッションデザイナー41人が、日本で一番好きなところについて書いています。この本に参加できたのがうれしいです。

I just received my copy of Travel Guide to Aid Japan, a stylish book with 40 artists, writers, fashion designers, and other cultural figures recommending their favorite places to visit in Japan. The WAttention editor had asked me recently for permission to use my Nonbei Yokocho photo, and it’s amazing how fast the book went to print. The foreward is by Alex Kerr and participants include Tokyo’s Jean Snow. I was glad to participate in this book.

Agris Seijo rental farm in Seijogakuenmae

I visited Odakyu’s Agris Seijo rental farm in Seijogakuenmae in Setagaya and was prepared to be charmed by a community vegetable farm built by a rail company above their tracks. Three years ago, the Odakyu corporation rebuilt the station, undergrounded the railway, and used some of the new land to promote urban farming. But I left feeling somewhat strange that reclaimed land could be gated and restricted. Although it is the rail company’s property, I think they missed a huge opportunity to create a great space for the neighborhood.

The farm is entered through a two story building that has a plant store on the first floor, spilling into the sidewalk, and a club room on the second floor. On entering the building, I learned that the garden was gated, and that no photographs were allowed. With my Tokyo University of Agriculture business card, I was handed a visitor’s pass. Two explanations were given about the no photography policy: customers would be concerned about their privacy, and photographers might misrepresent the photos they take. Please note that all the photos in this post were all taken from public roadways outside the gates.

Once inside, I discovered that this Agris Seijo has 303 rental plots, ranging in price between 5,500 and 14,500 yen per month ($60 to $175) depending on size and sunlight. 70% of the plots are being used, and the farm is organized in two seasons, with a fallow period during winter. Many of the customers are first time vegetable growers, and there are classes and staff to help them.

Some of what I observed: an elderly man harvesting giant sweet potatoes. Attractive netting with metallic strips to deter birds and insects. Some very attractive plots with broccoli, rainbow chard, carrots, celery, lettuce, salty leaf, peppers, basil, cauliflower, onion, eggplant, daikon radish.

Clearly burying the tracks below grade reduces railway noise for the neighbors and adds soil and plants which benefits the environment. There are benefits for customers and neighbors. Yet, I was struck by how empty the farm was during my weekday visit, and wondered why only 70% of the plots are rented after three years of operation. I also wonder if the customers or the railway company owner feels more special or important because of the gated aspect of the garden. In a city that is remarkably safe, I cannot imagine why there is a real need for keeping people out.

This wealthy project reminds me of the community garden I observed in Tsukushima. There, neighbors invested great time and effort in making beautiful spaces on an existing concrete river embankment. It appears that each gardener is expressing their own passions and perhaps competing with their neighbors. At no cost to the local government, neighbors have beautified dead space which can now be enjoyed by anyone. The Tsukushima community garden is completely accessible 24/7 and shows how ordinary people can create a great public space.

Some more thoughts and image about Odakyu after the jump.

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