Shiba koen

Tokyo Tower at sunset, rising above thick canopy of trees

今年はスカイツリーが注目を集めているが、東京タワーもまだきれいな建物です。 芝公園から見ると、この素敵な木の上からそびえています。

Sky Tree is getting all the attention this year. But Tokyo Tower remains a beautiful structure. I especially like seeing it from leafy Shiba Koen with its magnificent trees.

Accidental image of Zojoji Temple and Tokyo Tower using HDR setting on new camera

最近買ったCanon G1Xというデジタルカメラの使い方をまだ勉強しているが、よく間違います。HDRという設定を使って、動いている車が反復して映ります。芝公園の増上寺で。

I am still getting used to my new (used) Canon G1X digital camera. I mistakenly used the HDR (high dynamic range) setting, and it created this ghost like effect of the car traffic passing the crosswalk. I like the contrast between the dynamic street and the stately landmarks.

Stone wall and giant trees offer rare glimpse into past


This one stretch of wall at Shiba Koen, with the towering trees above it, provides a rare glimpse into Tokyo’s architectural past.

Zojoji temple decorated for tanabata


Cut bamboo and hand-written messages mark Tanabata, a traditional summer festival. I like how it’s celebrated in both the local supermarket, and also the old temples. This is from Zojoji temple in Shiba Koen.

Summer of green walls on mid-rise offices and retail buildings


Spurred by the energy crisis post-Fukushima, there’s been a notable increase in the number of mid-rise office and retail buildings with green walls. In an over-built city, vertical surfaces are the largest potential area for gardening, farming, and habitat creation.

Tokyo has far more vertical surfaces than roof areas, and we are only at the very beginning of creating an urban forest.

I have been following this topic for a while, and have watched this idea spread from notable public spaces like Suginami’s ward office (world’s largest green curtain) to apartment balconies, flower shops, and now commercial and retail spaces. This wide distribution across Tokyo and across building types is very exciting to see.

Some questions I have include:

  • What types of plants can be grown vertically and for what functions: aesthetics, habitat, scent, seasonal change, food?
  • How can green walls enhance innovative architecture and place-making?
  • How can vertical and roof gardens connect buildings, neighbors, and wildlife?
  • What is the impact on heat island effect, global competitiveness, and quality of life?

The answers will come from experimentation and diffusion. The photos, from top to bottom, are four green walls I’ve recently seen:

1. Hasegawa Green Building in Shiba Koen

2. Office mid-rise in Shinjuku Gyoen-mae (2 photos). The company that created and maintains this green wall is called Ishikatsu Exterior (石勝イクステリア).

3. Oimachi retail building near station.

4. Daimon office building.

Ojizosama sporting fresh hats, bibs, and colorful pinwheels


There must be hundreds or even a thousand ojizosamas at Sangendatsu-mon temple in Shiba-koen. Maybe because of summer obon, a time to communicate with the deceased, that they have fresh hats, bibs, and colorful plastic pinwheels. I love how all the pinwheels are pointed at the statues and not the people who walk by them. Close to Tokyo Tower, the parks and temples have wonderful mature trees and moss.

Shiba koen under Tokyo Tower

Recently I had the great fortune to meet Handa Mariko, President of the Parks and Recreation Foundation, at her office near Tokyo Tower. She explained the work she does managing fourteen national parks run by the Construction Ministry, and her role as designer of the enormous Showa Kinen park in western Tokyo, on the site of a former US military base.

Then, Handa-san took me and a senior executive of Hitachi, who kindly introduced us, to Shiba koen at the foot of Tokyo Tower. Shiba koen is a traditional Japanese garden surrounding an old sake building that houses a famous tofu restaurant called Ukai. The juxtaposition of tradition and post-war modernism, the protected pine tree and the aging metal tower is magical.