police

3.11 Anti-Nuclear demonstrators form human chain around Diet, the national assembly.

3.11の一年目の追悼と反原発のヒューマンチェーンに参加して、写真をたくさんとりました。高齢者が多くて、コズプレもあって、悲しく、同時に色がたくさんありました。ポケモンを何人か見ました。数万人が国会議事堂を囲んで、非常に感動しました。

On the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, I spent the afternoon at a memorial in Hibiya Park, and then joined tens of thousands forming a human chain around Japan’s national assembly, the Diet. I snapped a lot of photos, along with @sub_fauna, who took some great photos.

It was great to see so many people coming together to ask for fundamental change to energy and politics. Striking were the number of seniors, the odd costumes including several Pokemon, the mix of the mournful and colorful. A few Japanese friends asked me what a “human chain” was, as if it were a complicated imported notion. It was very touching to see people holding hands around the center of government.

I was also impressed with how organized the entire demonstration and policing were. The long cross-walk in front of the Diet was occupied only while the light was red. The police remained very calm, and their main tools were rolls of neon police tape, megaphones, and fabric traffic barriers with rings for lines of police to easily hold.

Continue reading

Begonias draw attention to surveillance cameras

あなたは監視されている。監視カメラと花のコンビは、公道を安全で楽しくするけれど、見張られているのはあまり好きじゃないです。

You are being watched. Surveillance paired with flowers keep streets attractive and safe. Still, I am not sure I like being watched.

I noticed these lovely hanging begonias on the utility poles leading out from the southeast exit of Shinjuku’s JR station. I was admiring the unexpected late fall color they provide, when I realized that each flower pot is paired with a banner explaining that “security cameras in use.”  Sure enough, above the banner and below the spikes to keep birds off, is a surveillance camera.

The banner is ominous, from the spooky greyscale graphic of two human figures in shadow to the logo with a man and his briefcase crossing the threshold of the kanji for exit in the six kanji that state “Southeast Exit Association.” Isn’t shinwakai (association) normally a volunteer group? The more I think about the Tounanguchi Shinwakai (東南口親和会), the less clear it is who is doing the watching.

Often I fool myself into thinking that Tokyo’s super-respectful public behavior is cultural and comes from positive socialization. I forgot how pride is also reinforced by peer shaming and legal enforcement. Tokyo has minimal public litter and no municipal garbage cans. It can also boast minimal street crime and an enormous number of police on the street.

Bike removal

Shibuya bike removal

Tokyo has many restrictions on where you can park your bike, particularly near stations. They want to discourage bikes blocking the sidewalks while their owners commute on the trains. In crowded neighborhoods like Shibuya, many bikes are parked too long or abandoned. The police come around and collect them. Since all bikes must be registered, the police contact the owners and levy a fine.

5bai Midori plants arrive during typhoon

5bai Midori plants arrive during typhoon, Shiho pottery studio

Thursday 5bai Midori delivered the three “satoyama units” I ordered, two for my home and one for Shiho, the pottery studio I attend in Suginami. I was amazed that the delivery service was uninterrupted by Typhoon #18 (known as Melor outside Japan), the first typhoon to hit Japan’s mainland in two years.

5bai Midori in boxes at home

5bai Midori’s native plants were more than I expected. It takes 4 weeks from ordering to delivery, and they arrive in large cardboard boxes. When the teachers and students opened the box at Shiho, they found a lizard. I hope he adjusts to life in the big city.

5bai Midori box at Shiho

The “satoyama units” are amazing: a mix of small trees, bushes, grasses and vines. The Shiho unit is a 30 centimeter square. The home ones for the balcony are 20 cm square and a rectangle measuring 15 cm by 50 cm. Included is a detailed list of the plants, including name, family name, latin name, description and care instructions. There is even a description of the metal frame and the soil. Attached to many plants are small metal tags with the plant’s name.

5bai Midori plants arrive during typhoon

I will blog about the seasonal change and growth of these 5bai Midori satoyama units. The locations could not be more different: the home balcony is on a high floor balcony with full southern sun. The pottery studio faces north and is underneath an awning.

5bai Midori plants arrive during typhoon

The pottery teachers were somewhat concerned about police protests (apparently they previously complained about the air conditioning units that also sit on the small strip of pavement between studio and sidewalk), and the possibility of theft. Still, they are excited to have this live environment which will slow pedestrians down and introduce more people to their studio. If it works out, I’d like to add several more units.

Here are my previous posts about 5bai Midori:

Beautifying major streets (May 5)
Meeting Tase Michio (May 21)
5bai Midori, or 5 sided green (May 22)
3 Projects created by 5bai Midori (July 22)
Satoyama and biodiversity (August 26)

And here are the sketches they created when we first discussed the projects.

5bai midori sketch for Shiho garden 5bai midori sketch for balcony garden

The balcony plant list is: Reineckea carnea, Quercus acustissima, Quercus serrata, Camellia sasanqua, Quercus myrsinaefolia, Clematis terniflora, Carex siderosticta, Trachelospermum asiaticum, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Eurya japonica, Petasites japonicus, Ardisia japonica, Liriope muscari, Kerria japonica.

Creating a common vision for green cities

governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and 2009 California budget deal

Reading about the drastic budget cuts in my home state of California makes me wonder about the potential future of green cities in that state and in the United States. After months of political deadlock, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a divided state Congress agreed on $US 30 billion in cuts over two years to schools, colleges, health, welfare, prisons, recreation and other services.

A New York Times analysis quotes University of California, Berkeley professor of political science Bruce E. Cain saying, “In the end, we do not know for sure whether the California public really wants the California dream anymore. The population is too diverse to have a common vision of what it wants to provide to everyone. Some people want the old dream, some want the gated privatized version, and some would like to secede and get away from it all.”

The conventional wisdom that California or the United States has no “common vision” reflects a political and cultural deficit, and will create more long-term damage than the economic downtown. For many government and educational authorities, diversity makes a convenient excuse for an unwillingness to invest in social programs that broadly benefit the public good. Nostalgia for previous boom times obscures the massive investment and cultural change needed to create green and sustainable cities.

Continue reading

Morning glory festival in Iriya

Morning glory festival in Iriya

This week I attended the Morning Glory festival in Iriya. Fifty vendors spread outside and inside the Iriya Kishimojin temple set up hundreds of thousands of plants for sale on July 6, 7 and 8. It is a symbol of the start of summer.

Many vendors wear traditional clothes, including hapi and momoshiki, plus towels worn as headbands to beat the summer heat. All the Japanese delivery services had representatives, who can deliver your morning glory throughout Japan for 800 yen (about $8.50).

Inside the temple I saw monks blessing plastic morning glory flowers with chanting and metal sparks. There was plumes of incense, small kids in colorful outfits, and television cameras.

Iriya Kishimojin monks blessing morning glories

I spoke with some European and Latin Americans working in the stall of their bonsai master Kobayashi Kunio. They confirmed that all the vendors were selling very similar plants. Most were four plants of different colored morning glory (pink, blue, purple, red, white, and striated flowers, and many with striated leaves) twined around a circular support. They also told me that the stalls were open from 6 am until 2 am, which makes for incredibly long days and little sleep. I picked up “ocean blue” for 2,500 yen and a four color mix for 2,000 yen.

Covered flower stalls occupied one side of the wide road, including one lane of traffic, and typical festival food the opposite side.

Police at Iriya morning glory festival ayu fish at morning glory festival in Iriya