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The beach is a fast train ride away in Chiba

千葉の御宿に着くと、きれいなヤシの並木が見えます。細くて背が高いです。カリフォルニアに人気なメキシコのヤシみたいです。急行で行くと、東京から御宿は近いです。電車からの東京湾の景色が大好きです。

I love how this row of skinny palm trees greets visitors to Onjuku, Chiba right from the station. They look like Mexican fan palms (washingtonia robusta) which are very common in California.

Onjuku is an 80 minute ride on the express train, and the beach is a 10 minute walk away. It’s great to visit the beach even for an afternoon. The trip by train is also fun. I love to see the port buildings and activities.

Highway rest stop cherry blossoms. Unlike US, Japanese rest stops are immaculate.

きれいな桜がサービスステーションにあります。日本のは米国のより全然違います。

I love this elegant cherry tree in bloom at a highway rest stop. In the background, you can see a row of cherry trees lining the highway. I am rarely a car passenger in Japan, but I was my in-laws on a day trip last weekend.

In the United States, highway rest stops have a bad reputation: dirty, few food options, insufficient toilets, and an atmosphere of decrepitude and crime. In Japan, they are immaculate, constantly renovated, over-supplied with clean toilets, food options that rival a large mall, and endless rows of souvenir edible gifts for people you will visit or for friends and family back home.

Summer vegetables growing on the sidewalk

Walking down a large boulevard in Higashi Koenji, I was surprised to see these potted vegetables on the sidewalk. In addition to ginko trees, this street has many azaleas between the vehicle lanes and the pedestrian sidewalk. In this spot, there’s a semi-permanent row of pots. But these eggplants and tomatoes are an extra row that someone temporarily set up.

I love how seasonal and impromptu this vegetable gardening is. And, after almost two years in Japan, I am still startled that people can place plants they love on the street, and no one eats the vegetables, vandalizes, or steals the plants. A city that’s safe for vegetables and plants is one that also welcomes people.

Sakura alongside roads

Nakano Dori is famous for its long rows of cherry trees. My friend who has lived in Nakano for decades explained how the wide street near the station is newer so the trees there are younger. The older trees have much more interesting bark, and at some points the canopies connect across the roadway. I love how the trees show the human care over so many years.

Walking, and perhaps even driving, is so much more fun during sakura time. Its beauty is related to how brief it is.

There is also a beautiful row of mature sakura along the Kanda River, which can be appreciated from inside the Chuo and Sobu trains or viewed from inside the British Council.