pond

Some people prefer full bloom, but I like to watch the petals fall and float off

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満開の桜が好きな人はたくさんいますが、私は落ちている花びらが好きです。新宿御苑の池で。

In a pond at Shinjuku Gyoen.

City fishing next to Ichigaya station

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釣り堀でのんびりやっている人が市ヶ谷ホームから見えます。釣りと電車の対照がきれいですね。

Day and night you can see people fishing in these stocked ponds on the Outer Moat, across from Ichigaya station. The contrast between the busy transit corridor, the beautiful moat, and the leisurely city fishers is enchanting.

Garden edges: former imperial property borders freeway on one side, harbor on other side

hamarikyu_cityedge_canal_ex
浜離宮恩賜庭園には、長い歴史と面白いカモ猟の場所があります。さらに、都市と湾の端の思いがけない風景があります。

Hamarikyu is an elaborate garden between the office towers of Shiodome and the harbor full of warehouses, garbage incinerators, and the massive immigration office with no cellphone coverage. Inside the garden, you can learn how the Emperor created a special landscape to facilitate duck hunting that used decoy ducks, falcons, and nets. But on the edges of the garden, you can see the messy metropolis with its relentless accumulation of transportation, commerce, and recently new luxury residential development. I like how on the city side, the stone-lined canal has been preserved, and on the harbor side, an older looking flood gate still regulates the garden’s pond.

hamarikyu_edge

Winter pond reflects landscape and sky in Shinjuku Gyoen

寒い日でも、新宿御苑を歩くことは楽しいです。落葉した桜の枝も池に映った逆さまの景色も冬の風景です。

Even on the briskest cold days, it’s such a pleasure to cross Shinjuku Gyoen. The bare cherry tree in the foreground, reflections, and upside down landscape and sky are dazzling on a clear day.

Zenpukuji ponds attract many birds

善福寺の池はたくさん鳥を引き寄せます。西荻窪の駅の北にあって、散歩にすばらしいところです。

In a quiet neighborhood north of Nishi Ogikubo, the Zenpukuji ponds are a great place for a stroll and for bird watching. These two ponds are at the source of the Zenpukuji river, and I like how one is very open, while the other is almost entirely filled with reeds and places for birds to nest and forage. These photos are from a walk last month with my urbanist inspiration Chris Berthelsen and his family.

Woody and stylized nature at Shinjuku Gyoen

どんな理由があっても、新宿御苑を通り抜けるのが大好きです。植物と景色が多いです。モミジが池に映っていて、人のいない自然みたい。竹で作られた柵があるから、人が作った場所だと分かりますが。近くに日本庭園があります。園芸家のおかげで、様式化されています。両方の景色が好きだから、一緒に見るのはすばらしです。

With any excuse, I like to cut across Shinjuku Gyoen. There are so many different plants and landscapes to see there. I like the contrast of these photos. Above late summer maple trees are lush green, and reflected in a pond. Only the wooden edge suggests that it is a garden and not a natural wonder. Below is the Japanese garden, with a path through the pond and gardeners hard at work styling nature into a very specific shape. I love seeing both woody and stylized versions so close to each other.

University of Tokyo moves old ginko tree for construction

東大法学大学院の新しい図書館ができるまで、成熟したイチョウの木を移動しています。 東大は木の価値に気がついていて、うれしいです。本郷のキャンパスの背の高い木や三四郎池はとてもすてきです。

It’s wonderful to see how the University of Tokyo is carefully removing two mature ginko trees as it breaks ground for a new law school library. The Hongo campus is gorgeous, both for its brick buildings that are vaguely ivy league and art deco, but also for its stunning trees and Sanshiro pond.

The frantic pace of construction and reconstruction has left Tokyo with an inadequate tree canopy. It’s great that these two trees will survive the new building, and that the University of Tokyo demonstrates that it values its natural environment.

Elegant Nezu Museum garden

The Nezu Museum and its gorgeous Japanese garden are a just short walk from the Nishi Azabu Juban wildness, the Kakuremino bar, and lush sidewalk garden. Many people come to the newly rebuilt Nezu Museum for its exquisite collection of pre-modern art, or the new building designed by Kuma Kengo. I am a huge fan of its garden that combines tea houses and paths in a setting that seems ancient, slightly overgrown, bigger than its footprint, and entirely removed from city life.

When I visited recently, just before closing time towards the end of a long, hot summer, I was enchanted by how the light struck this worn boat, the plants growing in its bow, and the illusion of minimal human habitation in an endless jungle. I was also surprised to see Japanese maple leaves already turning red, despite the temperature being above 32 celcius (90 fahrenheit) for many weeks.

Taken together, these four posts about Nishi Azabu Juban speak to the wide range of nature in the city: professional and amateur gardens, single plants and total environments, built and wild, public and gated, destinations and everyday experiences. Plants grow wild even in the densest cities, but how we choose to nurture them provides endlessly varied results. I am inspired by the full range of possibilities.

Clip-on retrofit of cities

Vanessa Keith has a provocative article about urban reforestation. Rather than focus on new buildings, a small percentage of any city, Keith proposes rebuilding through a “clip-on” to existing urban structures and infrastructures. Keith considers roofs, walls, and highways as valuable surfaces that increase by factors of two (for in-fill structures) or six (for free standing structures) the total surface area of a city.

Her clip-on ideas include green roofs, roof ponds, vertical gardening, waterfalls for cooling and power generation, wind bands, and more urban trees. I like how she connects urban solutions with rural deforestation, and considers government incentives and the potential role of large developers and community groups in creating a demonstration block in New York City.

Tokyo University Sanshiro-ike garden in fall

On a beautiful warm November day, I discovered Tokyo University’s Sanshiro-ike garden. I had a few moments before a meeting, and saw on the campus map that there was a central garden on the main campus. I had assumed it would be a formal garden.

I was very surprised to descend a small hillside and encounter this natural looking pond. Looking in all directions, one sees only trees, water and sky, despite the compact size of the garden. Even on a warm weekend day with early fall foliage, few visitors were there. I was enchanted by the incredibly natural and removed-from-the-city feeling in this garden inside central Tokyo and Japan’s most famous university.

It takes a lot of artifice to make a city garden look so natural. The waterfall is amazing.

Continue reading to see some more images from Tokyo University, aka Todai.

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Fall foliage at Nezu Museum

Fall foliage at Nezu Museum

Diane Durston of the Portland Japanese Garden invited me last week to visit the Nezu Museum, which recently reopened. The art collection of scrolls and screens representing nature from the fourteenth century are stunning, as is the new building designed by Kuma Kengo is a wonderful example of “wafu modern” (和風モダン),  a modernization of traditional Japanese design. But mostly I was drawn outside to the large garden.

Nezu Museum garden

The winding paths and unexpected size make you feel far from Aoyama. Although just outside the main exhibit hall, the garden is marred by the sight of the strangely tall and also squat Roppongi Hiills Tower, once inside the garden it is a fantasy of forest punctuated by old tea houses, streams and ponds. The garden has been revived yet retains a look of simplicity and wildness. Originally it formed part of the home of the museum founder Nezu Kaichiro, the Tobu Railway president and industrialist who was a collector of pre-modern Japanese and Asian art.

Perhaps even better than Kuma Kengo’s main exhibit hall is his modern take on the Japanese tea house. The new cafe is incredibly light and airy, opening out on to the garden and with an interesting ceiling light that looks like illuminated stone.

Nezu Museum garden

Since our visit last Friday, the weather has turned much cooler, especially at night. The next few weeks will have wonderful fall foliage in the garden.

Nezu Museum garden

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Traditional Japanese garden Kyu Shiba Rikyu dates to 1678 when land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay became the residence of Okugawa Tadatamo, an official of Tokugawa Shogunate. Kyu Shiba Rikyu is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens, along with Koishikawa Korakuen. Kyu Shiba Rikyu was destroyed by fire in the 1923 earthquake, rebuilt and gifted by the Emperor as a city park.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu garden

Today this stroll garden with a focal pond and two small islands sits steps from Hamamatsuchou station, and surrounded by office buildings, bullet trains, the JR Yamanote line, a monorail, elevated train, and two elevated highways. The pond reflects manicured black pines, office towers and billboards. There is also a very elegant archery range with grass lawn, tatami seating area, and targets inked by hand. (See photos after the jump below).

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

The pond and island were created over 400 years ago to recall China’s Seiko Lake (Xi Hu) and Reizan sacred mountain in Hangzhou (Zhejiang). Like at Koishikawa Korakuen, Kyu Shiba Rikyu was created at a time when garden design, philosophy, literature, and painting all borrowed heavily from China. Given our last century’s conflicts between Japan and China, is it too much to hope for artistic borrowings in this century?

A wonderful garden diplomacy would be a photographic exploration of these 400 year old Japanese gardens and the Chinese landscapes that inspired them. How have the natural and designed environments changed? What contemporary landscapes could inspire today’s art exchanges?

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