Dutch embassy opens its doors for Culture Day


On Japan’s Culture Day, the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo opened the doors to its magnificent ambassador’s residence and garden. Hundreds of locals took advantage of this rare inside look. It reminded me that many of Tokyo’s greatest green spaces are in private hands or inaccessible to the public like the Imperial Palace.

It’s fantastic that the Netherlands embassy opens their diplomatic outpost to the public twice a year. The house was initially designed in the 1880s and rebuilt after the 1923 earthquake. Although some say the style is “colonial,” the building reminds me of upper class residences in the United State’s northeast. From some angles, I could imagine Gatsby throwing a large garden party.

The garden is a fantastic mix of towering pines and other trees, a pleasantly irregular lawn, and a mix of traditional Japanese garden plants with plenty of imports like roses. Within this well maintained garden, I was pleased to see Tokyo’s native palm tree, the shuro, which easily self-sows and carries a history of being used for centuries in domestic life, as brooms, roofing, and sandals.

The visit also reminded me of the centuries of Dutch-Japanese history. This year I visited Dejima in Nagasaki, the sole foreign trading post during the centuries when Japan remained otherwise closed to the world. The visit conjured scenes of trading ships, cultural emissaries, and globalization in its earlier stages.

Hollyhocks are sign that summer is close

I love these hollyhocks growing on the side of a busy boulevard in Nakano. They are obviously self-sowed and extremely hardy. I marveled at them last year. I am certain that no one takes care of them, and yet they have spread up and down this boulevard.

Very rapidly, they grow over two meters tall. Along with hydrangea and azaleas, they are a sign that summer is close. I like how in this photo the flowers echo the verticality of the narrow high-rises and the Jeans Mate banner, and offer a contrast with the fast-moving, fossil-fuel dependent traffic.