scale

Old Showa house, empty lot, 1960s small factory in shadow of Roppongi Hills

六本木ヒルズの後ろに、まだ古い工場や昭和時代の住居が残っています。

In the shadow of Roppongi Hills, one of Tokyo’s most expensive neighborhoods, there are still old factory buildings, Showa-era two story houses, and even empty lots alive with weeds. This mix of scale, land usage, and non-design is delightful.

At Imperial Palace, few landscape elements create grand exterior

いつも自分の庭に新しい植物をもってきます。皇居の近くで、数は少ないけれど大きな規模に感動しました。松と水と石は本当に素敵です。

As a gardener, I am a maximalist with my own small space. Approaching the Imperial Palace from the Marunouchi business district, I am struck by the grandeur of using few elements at an enormous scale. Pine, water, and stone.

Another old house and garden surrounded by new construction in Shibuya

この渋谷で見つけた自宅と庭園も昭和時代の生き残りです。隣の建物の規模とはとても対照的です。

I like how this Showa house, with its manicured garden, has somehow survived in Shibuya. Near NHK headquarters. The difference in scale with its neighbors is striking.

Flowers in “ripped” vase

At Shizen restaurant in Sendagaya, I was impressed by the very simple flowers in this lovely vase. I love how the ceramic is made to appear “torn.” Whether bonsai or ikebana, Japan excels at using small-scale nature to evoke much large landscapes and experiences.

Rice in buckets outside Waseda campus gate

Seeing rice grown in buckets and styrofoam boxes always amazes me: focusing the national obsession with the main staple into a city scale. No one will get full from miniature rice farms, but I am sure that tending rice in the city makes residents appreciate eating rice even more. These buckets were lined up outside a gate at Waseda’s main campus.

Nodai Trip (part 3): New Greenpia

Professor Shinji, Nodai trip, New Greenpia

Frankly, arriving at New Greenpia (ニュー・グリーンピア) was a landscape and cultural shock after Obuse. Compared to the 600 year history of Obuse and multi-layered reinventions from the 1990s to the present, New Greenpia’s buildings and gardens reflect Japan’s famous Bubble from the 1980s. Amazingly, many of the Nodai students were born at the very end of the 1980s.

If I understood it correctly, it was a semi-public resort created to provide a place for working class urban people to experience nature. Sometime in the past five years, financial ruin led it to be sold to private owners, at a scandalously low price.

Next to a giant building that serves as conference center, hotel and event space, there are huge lawns leading to tennis courts and golfing. Between the building and the recreation area is a narrow river-themed landscape created by a Nodai professor over 20 years ago. The original design has water coming out of concrete cones, which is no longer functioning.

New Greenpia

I realize that the built environment was created with good intentions. Still, the scale of the building and the large empty lawns do not take advantage of the natural surrounds. The garden river, too, seems a poor imitation of the surrounding abundance of natural streams and irrigated fields. And the lack of maintenance is a glaring testimony of the financial troubles Japan has encountered in the past 20 years. If anything, New Greenpia served as an educational transition between the seeming success of Obuse and the haunting abandonment we witnessed in Echigo, Niigata, the site of the Niigata Art Triennial, the subject of my next post.

Perhaps New Greenpia sees more activity during ski season. We saw a few go-carts racing down the snow-less slope. I will end this post with an unsettling image near the entrance to the building promoting weddings in sunflower fields (of which we saw no evidence). Maybe the giant photo ad is meant to suggest the contemporary relevance of nature for young yankii couples, possibly city residents. I wonder why all the guests are dressed in black.

New Greenpia wedding ad

Office tower landscaping

Office tower landscaping, Akihabara

On my way to a meeting at an office tower in Akihabara, I noticed this subtle and attractive landscaping. I like how the garden breaks up a barren space and uses traditional elements of Japanese gardens– bamboo, rock, natural fencing,and emptiness– in a non-traditional scale and grouping.