Rika-chan, a Japanese Barbie, is promoting these fresh strawberries on the packaging. Seeing that image makes me wonder if there are any humans involved in the production or consumption of these winter “fruit products.”
Near the gallery where the Shiho ceramic show is held each year, there’s a small real estate office with an amazing collection of at least 50 cactuses. This year, I noticed that when it rains the realtor brings most of them inside, and covers a few outside with plastic.
The office definitely has more cactuses than customers. I am delighted by this plant lover’s dedication. When it’s cold, he brings many in for the night. Given how heavy and thorny the plants are, he’s obviously very dedicated to his passion.
都市の中で食べ物を育てて、庭を持つことは無理だと思う人が多いです。東大の近くで、素晴らしいミニ農園を見つけました。コンクリートの受け台 の上です。植木鉢はビニール袋 で作られています。ところで、日本で夏にイチゴを買うことができません。ルバーブと一緒に煮たいなら、自分で育てなければなりません。
So many people think they can’t grow food or have a garden in the city. Near the University of Tokyo, I spotted this amazing mini-farm on a concrete pad. I love how they are using recycled and simple materials, like plastic sacks as container pots. It seems mostly cherry tomatoes, bitter melon, and shiso, with some incredible hand-made supports.
Speaking of growing your own, my mother in law was talking about cooking with rhubarb, and I naturally suggested strawberries. Apparently it is very difficult to find commercial strawberries in summer in Japan because it’s become known as a new year fruit. It seems like there’s an opportunity there for some local summer strawberries without the hothouses.
There must be hundreds or even a thousand ojizosamas at Sangendatsu-mon temple in Shiba-koen. Maybe because of summer obon, a time to communicate with the deceased, that they have fresh hats, bibs, and colorful plastic pinwheels. I love how all the pinwheels are pointed at the statues and not the people who walk by them. Close to Tokyo Tower, the parks and temples have wonderful mature trees and moss.
Walking at night in Chiyoda after a meeting at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Chris and I found an amazingly dense and mature sidewalk garden that seems to be tended by a sushi restaurant. The planting is amazingly thick, creating a green wall between the sidewalk and the large boulevard in front of the restaurant. I like how the owners felt they could own this space and sacrifice some pedestrian space to make the small area around them so much nicer.
There’s a variety of trees and bushes and small plants in recycled pots and layered on cinder blocks (called “breeze blocks” by the New Zealanders) and other found stuff including beer crates, wood, bricks, and blocks. There’s even two plastic pots hanging from a ginko street tree that are currently empty. Makes me want to contribute something!
I first saw these vines a month ago on a nearby sidewalk. They are growing in plastic buckets with an elaborate plastic twine trellis supported by a tree branch. Initially I misidentified them as morning glory. Recently, I saw how tall and thick the vines had become, and that they are in fact bitter melon, with vegetables ready to eat. The shop owner saw me taking these photos, and seemed very proud of his summer edible garden on a busy street.
I have started to notice all over Tokyo that people are creating makeshift plastic rope trellises for summer morning glory vines. This one near my home is particularly ingenious: the trellis wraps around two blue buckets containing the vines, and the rope is looped over the street tree. A zig-zag pattern is added for extra support.
Is this a new trend? I am looking forward to watching these plants grow this summer.
UPDATE: One month later, the vines cover the trellis, and I realize that it’s bitter melon, not morning glory. The vegetables are ready to eat.
Several months ago Marui opened up another department store in Shinjuku san chome, along with at least three other existing ones and retail competition that includes Isetan’s flagship across the street. It is interesting that one of its defining design themes is green space. If you arrive by Tokyo Metro, you can see strips of living plant walls in the underground passageway.
At the street level, Marui created large gardens more than a meter wide along the sidewalk with trees, bushes and grasses. This provides an unexpected burst of plant life in an area otherwise paved and overflowing with signage and people.
Marui even uses low light plants in indoor merchandising. It feels like a coherent and unique brand identity extending from outside to inside the retail space. Unfortunately some of the indoor “plants” are plastic, including faux vines above the first floor selling area, but not everyone notices.
In the photo above you can see how the subway level green wall is a modular system, allowing easy replacement of plants. It’s great to see a retail company standing out by providing plants and gardens to passer-bys as well as shoppers.
I have posted before with some sympathy for how ordinary Tokyo people express their desire for public, urban nature, even with fake flowers and real ivy in plastic bottle containers in such unlikely places as a Metro men’s room. I have more ambivalent feelings about the widespread retailing use of fake leaves to signal fall.
Above is a photo from my neighborhood supermarket. Is nature not signaling seasons clearly enough? Are plastic plants the best the supermarket can do to mark seasons. What about seasonal foods and vegetables? Are these leaves stored, washed, and brought out the next year?
The second image is from a neighborhood pachinko parlor. This one mixes an abundance of fake flowers and sexy female imagery to attract attention and customers. I have a feeling that these flowers might have looked better when first installed, and that they may remain next to the Metro station for many more years to come.
It’s wonderful to see rice growing in a simple residential street garden, alongside geraniums and other ornamentals. The rice is nearly ready to be harvested. Below you can see that it is growing in a blue plastic pot and a white styrofoam box. What it lacks in aesthetics it exceeds in frugality and resourcefulness.
I haven’t seen this neighbor in a while, since she offered us some beer on a warm day; unfortunately, we did not have time to stop then.