Wrapped in rice stalks to protect them from the cold, these tall sidewalk cycads add an element of traditional Japanese gardens to a large city street. I love the craft and care visible in the wrapping, and the shapes look almost human. I included the photo below to show off the fantastic 1960s or 1970s architecture of the residential building nearby.
A miniature fantasy landscape freely shared on a Tokyo curbside.
This tiny curbside garden is a fantasy landscape in miniature in what was probably dead space previously between the house and the road. There’s moving water, a palm tree, plants, and several odd characters. I found it just across the road from the giant tree on that former country lane that is now barely visible in Suginami, not far from Opera City.
The contents are fun in their whimsical incongruity. Even in this tiny space, there are several overlapping vignettes. A tiny palm tree joined by a sliver bunny and a character that appears to be a cross between European Romanticism and anime; several Sago palms (Cycas revoluta) beneath some mid-height bushes; and the fountain with water plants and a character trio with a helmeted princess, a red Cobra super-hero whose left arm is a semi-automatic weapon, and an over-sized yellow dog. The fountain features plants, a tiny cliff-side, and bathtub ducks.
The garden structure is very DIY: low-cost, anonymously designed, and highly imaginative. I love that the gardener is sharing this creation with the neighbors and passers-by. The garden’s minimal foundation is constructed mostly of low-lying brick with some wood fencing. I particularly like the tag that shows the flowers that will bloom later.
Thanks again to @ArchitourTokyo for the great bike tour where we discovered this sculpture garden.
Art provides a beautiful way to invite the smallest and least cute wildlife into our lives. I want this bug home!
This beautiful “habitat sculpture” was created by Kevin Smith, with inspiration from Lisa Lee Benjamin of Urban Hedgerow, and featured at San Francisco’s Flora Grubb Garden. It is made from salvaged and natural materials, and promises to attract a variety of insects. The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a story about creating “bug hotels.”
Art is a valuable way to help us invite nature into our lives. And insects, often ignored by city dwellers, are bottom-of-the-food-chain and critical for supporting a variety of wildlife and plant life. I like how Lisa talks about the importance of expanding our “tolerance” for wildlife that may not immediately appeal to us.
With a few minutes to spare before meeting Hiraga Tatsuya of Landscape+, I stepped into nearby Shin Edogawa park. The colors were beautiful, and empty apart from a couple having formal wedding photos taken in traditional costume. I wonder what the small seasonal sculpture is. There were several placed in the garden, and they seem to be made of rice stalks, and possibly with a religious meaning.
Please let me know if you know. Here’s a close-up.
And another garden photo after the jump.
The Echigo Tsumari or Niigata Art Triennial was our last stop, and it, too, reflected the themes of history in landscape and rural revitalization. We visited a small portion of the 350 sites, mostly abandoned houses and schools, spread out in several hillside villages. This two month features world-class international art, much of it conceptual, and draws audiences from around Japan and the world.
The above sculpture, using local river-harvested drift wood and washed out neon colors, represents the last three students in an old school started in the Edo period. The oldest parts of the building have been opened to show the mud and bamboo walls below the plaster and paint. With only the very elderly still living in these towns, new and modern buildings that once provided education and shelter are now abandoned. These spaces provide an over-abundance of space for art, and much of it is haunting.
The school above was created only thirty years ago, and was closed nineteen years after opening. It seems to be on the verge of being reclaimed by the forest. For the Triennial, French artists Christian Boltanski and Jean Kalman turned the interior was turned into a theatrical, high art haunted house recalling the school and amplifying the gloom. Visitors enter a pitch black auditorium, covered in hay, with benches and fans. There are hallways with dark mirror windows, the sound of a heart beat, and a room full of what appear to be plexiglass coffins.
Juxtaposed with the gloom were many playful and surreal art works. Below is an outdoor grasshopper sculpture that moves as water fills the heads and cables connecting to indoor sculptures raise and shake dozens of wood puppets.
It was fun to experience the artwork and the environment with the young Nodai students. Many of them are from the countryside, and their interest and confusion in the art was palpable.
See below for more Niigata Art Triennial photos, including abandoned houses, fields, art and stories.