In my apartment building’s enormous recycling and garbage area, I found this lovely image of Mount Fuji staring at me. Only in Japan do residents neatly fold and lovingly display used items destined for shredding and recycling. This image is not of the artistic quality of Hiroshige (広重)’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji, it’s a lovely reminder of nature in an unlikely place.
I love how this collection of bonsais sits on recycled containers (air conditioning covers?) extending from the sidewalk into the street. The ability to share valuable and mobile plants in Tokyo public spaces continues to impress me. I also love the recycling, and the ingenuity of using the inside of the platform for storage. This collection sits across the street from the Tokyo University Botanic Garden in Bunkyo, and next door to the convenience store that handles the ticket sales.
On the trip to Nasu in Tochigi two weekends ago, we visited a unique mountain cow dairy called Shinrin no bokujo (森林の牧場) that produces delicious milk and ice cream while addressing a crisis in Japanese forestry. The recycling company Amita created this dairy and another in Tango, northern Kyoto on the Japan Sea, as an ecological experiment.
With the collapse of Japan’s timber industry, many mountains are covered with single species trees that have not been maintained and are now dying. The mountain dairy idea is to allow the cows to maintain and improve the forests. The concept ties dairy farming with healthy food production, watershed conservation, and rice farming.
The milk is currently sold at Isetan department store Queen Isetan grocery stores, as well as onsite. Lots of families came with young children to see this unique dairy. The milk was extremely rich and delicious, with a hard cream top, packaged in a glass bottle with attractive graphics.
One of the TEDxSeeds members will be starting work there, and we met the farm manager, who is a graduate of Tokyo University of Agriculture. It was exciting to see this ecological experiment run as a business. The Japanese president of Qualcomm is also interested in new farming techniques that address food quality and ecological revitalization. Since rural abandonment has become a major national issue, these experiments are very timely and needed.
Visiting the cows was fun. They were extremely friendly. They allowed some heavy petting, and in return offered a very slobbery welcome. I had no idea their mouths are so full of saliva! Some of the young calves are lent out as natural lawn mowers, much as goats are now providing fossil fuel free mowing and complementary fertilizer in Silicon Valley. The grown cows are too heavy to transport easily.
The buildings on site, both for visitors and for milking, are simple and very attractive.
A London art, plants and urbanist organization Waywardplants.org rescues unwanted plants– “discarded, abandoned, rogue, stray or runaway”— and discovers new homes where they will be cared for. This horticultural intervention has created adoption forms, placed itself in the Barbican Art Gallery in London, and encompasses a full life range from “freecycle” sharing to composting “cemetaries.”
You can watch a Wayward Plant presentation made at Pecha Kucha London. As all their talks, it is 20 slides at 20 seconds, for a total less than 7 minutes. They will also be participating in the Graham Foundation‘s exhibit, “ACTIONS: What you can do with the city” that presents 99 actions “that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world” based on common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening. It’s in Chicago until March 13, 2010.
Illustration ©Sambuichi Architects
Last week I met with the sustainability lead at ARUP, who discuss this global construction engineering firm’s work on the Inujima Art Project near Okayama. Located on a small island that once served as a copper refinery and granite quarry, this abandoned industrial site has been reclaimed as an environmental art work, with architecture by Sambuichi Hiroshi and art by Yanagi Yukinori. The art combines remnants of famed novelist Mishima Yukio’s house, Inujima granite, Inujima Karami bricks and slag.
Photo ©Daici Ano, Inujima Art Project website
All lighting and cooling is done through passive cooling and natural light using the chimneys from the original refinery. ARUP contributed computer modeling and design for the no-carbon energy systems including wavy wall tunnels to maximize cooling, solar modeling to minimize heat absorption, and modeling of all potential climates and earthquake potential. There is also a grey water system that uses plants to clean waste water, which is then used for orange and olive trees.