My favorite Kichijoji plant store is moving soon. I have long admired the owner’s meticulous sidewalk garden, full of surprises. Here are perfect grapes, two of which we have just eaten. The garden is a long narrow strip with some more plants in a light well and the stairway to the lower level entrance.
I like the mix of exotics like grapes, with traditional Japanese plants like pine and raphis palm, plus ferns, cactuses, and so many more plant types. The incredible variety of plants and the impeccable maintenance show off the gardener’s skills and wide interests.
More photos after the jump.
I love how this small shop on Shinjuku Dori has two beautiful raphis palms outside the storefront. They provide a lush and tropical look and partly obscure the air conditioning unit. Tokyo has a surprising number of small shops throughout the city, and their owners seem more likely to take pride in their neighborhood and cultivate plants than big chain stores.
This old sign for a shoe shop, offering repair and shoe-making, adds to the neighborly feel of Zoushigaya and the sense of long-time residents and small businesses.
More uncanny was this strange pop-up park in an empty lot. It looks new, and includes two new benches, a shed, a fake well (there’s a faucet behind the facade), three fresh ikebana flower displays, wood and stone paths, and two water wheels. Who created this new park? I was amazed to peek behind the shed and see garden supplies and tools that had not been stolen or vandalized.
The enormous raphis palms growing outside the home below suggest decades of growth. I wonder if the person who planted it ever expected it to get so huge?
Old Tokyo neighborhoods like Zoushigaya are full of plant lovers who manage to create gardens where there is almost no space. This type of passion for gardening cannot be replicated by large scale developers. What is amazing is the ingenuity and sheer variety of plants grown by residents.
Above there are five or more plants growing vertically along a narrow path that would otherwise be a grim cinder block and metal siding wall between properties. The gardener seems to have used large blue laundry clips to espalier these hardy plants.
To the left you can see how a corner garden softens the edge of the street and marks the change of seasons. Just as the house reveals that the structure has been added to over time, you can see a mix of mature plants, including raphis palms, with recently bought annuals. Again, all sorts of readily at hand materials are recycled into the garden, including astroturf, cinder blocks, and the red folding chair.
While I like the chaos of this garden, the one below shows how you can have a no flower, more traditional looking Japanese garden growing in the intermediate space between residence and street. The trees look mature and regularly trimmed.
The last images show the beauty of a single plant that has found its way through one of a series of regularly placed holes in a cement wall. I think it’s very pleasing to see a hardy plant bringing life to a hard surface. I wonder if this effect of private public space blurring was intentional or accidental?
During the trip to Inujima, we spent a night in Kurashiki, an old warehouse town near Okayama that survived both the war and modernization. In the Ohashi house, built by a wealthy merchant in 1796, there is a wonderful example of a mansion built around courtyards that offer ventilation and gardens.
Perhaps similar to Kyoto’s kyomachiya (capital town homes), the use of courtyards and the ability to open the house to nature provide a historic reference that could inspire contemporary residential architecture.