Shibaura

My interview about a new waterfront high-rise is now online and in many free real estate magazines distributed around Tokyo’s stations

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最近、芝浦についての私のインタビューが出ました。この三井不動産のプロジェクトは、住宅と同時に公共の公園も作り、新い住人と今住んでいる住人とのコミュニティーを作ろうとしています。画期的な計画だと思います。緑と水は人をつなげられます。

In August, I began working with Mitsui Real Estate, Recruit, and a small NGO to introduce a new luxury high-rise residential tower in Shibaura, a less known waterfront area between Shinagawa and Hamamatsucho. It’s near where the base of Rainbow Bridge is located.

In this online interview (in Japanese) and in real estate brochures distributed around Tokyo, I relate my experience working in the neighborhood at Shibaura House, where I led gardening and fieldwork workshops for locals and international visitors, adults and small children.

The new tower, which is just now breaking ground, contributes to the restoration of Edo-era canals by creating a public waterfront park. This park contributes to the developer’s goal of creating a resilient community that includes new and existing residents. Providing greater access to the waterfront also restores a vital part of Tokyo’s history that was neglected in the 20th century.

Maritime shipping company has been operating for decades in this pre-Bubble office

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芝浦にある海運送会社です。バウハウスのような簡潔さがあるので、バブルの何年も前に建てられたと思います。濃い青色の陶器タイルは空に似合います。

The Bauhaus-like architectural simplicity and the decorative ceramic tiles mark this commercial building as product of postwar industry and trade, long before the excess of the Bubble. It’s lovely to see maritime companies that have done business for decades still exist along Tokyo’s waterfront.

Tanuki finds double-takes, rejection, and friendly souls outside Shibaura House

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.@ShibauraHouse の辺りでは、タヌキがいつもとちがう反応を受けました。

A few people did a double take when they spotted tanuki taking a nap in the small wild space in front of Shibaura House. Tanuki shows how his 4 meter scrotal shade can quickly be turned into a blanket for anytime napping.

Below he approaches a glass office tower, but there’s no response. Nearby office workers avoided eye contact, but delivery men and laborers were happy to accept an umaibo salty snack and chat with tanuki.

More photos coming from the film developer soon. Many thanks to A Small Lab‘s Chris and everyone at Shibaura House.  IMG_2058 IMG_2048

Thanks Shibaura House for hosting Making Friends with Tanuki

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芝浦ハウスに感謝いたします。昨日の「タヌキと友達を作ろう」イベントでは、タヌキさんがサラリーマンに日陰を提供したり、働いている人にウマイボーをあげたり、子供たちにあいさつをしたりしました。何だろうと思った人は、遠くから見ていました。写真は芝浦ハウスのフィイスブックからです。

On a hot day, tanuki offered shade to office workers, shared salty snacks with laborers, and interacted with children. Tanuki brought surprise and wonder. Many people, including elementary school students, kept a safe distance from this foreign element. Photo above from Shibaura House’s Facebook.

Tokyo freeways make me dizzy and nauseous

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東京の高架高速道路は目まぐるして、めまいがして気分が悪くなります。芝浦で。

 

At Shibaura. In the background, between the freeway sandwich, you can see a small illuminated detail of Rainbow Bridge.

Flood gate on Shibaura canal near Hinode

逆さまの魚の絵が水門を飾っています。日の出の芝浦運河で。

By day, Tokyo’s waterfront is often underwhelming visually: a mix of port shipping, older buildings that routinely turned their backs to what used to be polluted water, and new luxury high rises. By night, the water sparkles, and the city is far more seductive.

I love how this flood gate on the Shibaura canal has a giant cartoon fish. When the gate is lowered, the painted fish descends to join the real fish in the canal. I wonder why his heading is facing up. Maybe he doesn’t want to leave the city’s bright lights just yet.

Fieldwork event with Shibaura House on a rainy day

先月は芝浦ハウスでフィールドワークとグリーンマップのワークショップをしました。日本語で人類学を説明することがちょっと難しかったですが、参加者が創造的で知性的な方たちばかりでした。芝浦ハウスも写真をのせています

Last month I lead a fieldwork and green mapping workshop at Shibaura House. Despite the rain, participants seemed eager to explore Mita and Shibaura and to record the city with fresh eyes. It was a challenge for me to explain anthropology in Japanese. Shibaura House also posted photos.

Pop-up plant and flower shop in Shibaura

このきれいな花屋は芝浦の空き地を利用しています。私だけじゃなくて、自転車を使って植物を買っている客が他にもいます。

I like how this flower and plant shop occupies this empty lot on a Shibaura side street. It’s also nice to see that others use their bikes for plant shopping.

Getting close to the water in Shibaura. With mysterious tiny canal that pre-dates recent developments.

三度目に芝浦に行ったとき、きれいな水に近づける運河を見つけました。道路と水の間を歩けます。地下に、小さな古い運河の出口も見つけました。

On my third trip to Shibaura, I discovered that there is one canal that provides wonderful, up-close access to water. It’s the first canal when entering from the JR Yamanote station. There’s even paths below the bridges and just above the water. On a drizzly afternoon, it was magical to be below the roadway.

Most of Tokyo’s rivers are buried, and the few remaining ones, including much of the Kanda and Zenpukuji rivers, are channeled 10 meters below street level to manage flooding. Sometimes I hear ducks echoing in these canyons, but the distance between people and water is a missed opportunity.

At the Shibaura canal, I found a tiny canal opening that seems to do pre-date the more recent developments. I like the old stones at the entrance. All that’s missing from this canal is space to get your feet wet, or even go in for a swim.

Geisha meeting house is one of Shibaura’s oldest buildings. Still elegant and would be lovely if restored.

恊働会館という木造建築物は1936年に建てられて、昔は芸者が話し合いをする場所でした。多分、去年の地震で破損しましたが、まだ上品に見えます。

Called the Kyodo Kaikan, and built in 1936, this wood story house that once was a geisha meeting house is now closed, possibly because of damage from last year’s earthquake. It still looks elegant.

Sidewalk garden made with huge soup pots. A lovely green spot in a heavily paved area in Shibaura.

芝浦の歩道で、大鍋の中にしっかりした庭が育っている様子が好きです。

I love how this mature garden is growing in soup pots on the sidewalk in Shibaura.

Uncanny, industrial side of Shibaura. Pipe enters 2nd floor of house, cement stored under Rainbow Bridge.

なぜこの大きな水道管は運河を渡ってこの家に入り込んでいるんでしょうか。下水と雨水の処理に関係しているのでしょうか。レインボーブリッジの下には、セメントの貯蔵庫もあります。芝浦で面白い土地利用がいっぱいあると思います。

I have no idea why this huge pipe crosses the canal and enters the small two story house. How this house survived all the redevelopment, what is being piped in or through the house, and is the foundation as make-shift as it appears? I wonder if it has anything to do with all the nearby sewage and storm water treatment plants.

Just under the enormous circular ramp leading to Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba is a gigantic tower of cement. I guess there are enough construction projects to justify a waterfront cement operation.

These two photos show the different scales of homes and enterprises in Shibaura. They make me curious to explore more.

Messy canal edge with limited access, decay, and garbage

芝浦の運河の端に潜り込みました。公共の入口がないので、廃墟とごみが多いです。

We snuck behind some buildings to gain furtive access to the canal. It’s too bad that Shibaura’s many canals cannot be easily accessed. Once by the water, we saw decayed structures and ample garbage.

Exploring canals, water works, and urban edge in Shibaura

最近、芝浦の辺りをオーストラリア人の建築家・ランドスケープアーチストと散歩しました。芝浦ハウスという新しくてかっこいい文化のスペースは、一度行ったことかあります。今回は、色々な運河に区切られた人工島を観察できました。一番驚いたことは、水道局庁舎が5件もあることです。地図から、たくさんの水道局関係の言葉を勉強しました。排水機場、下水、汚泥、処理、庁舎、水再生、ポンプ所。芝浦は東京都の下水道と雨水の処理に不可欠だそうです。

Last month Australia’s smlwrld‘s Bianca and Lucas invited me to go with them on a walking adventure in Shibaura. They took some great photos and wrote up a post calling Shibaura “an infrastructure theme park.”

I’d only been once before, drawn to see the new cultural space Shibaura House. This second time, in addition to stopping back at Shibaura House, we explored the neighborhood and were stunned by the mix of uses being made of these small man-made islands criss-crossed with canals.

There are many water works facilities, a giant incinerator, docks for shipping and at least one re-purposed warehouse named Tabloid, offices from the 70s and 80s, newer apartment towers, industrial buildings, a cement factory, elevated monorail, and the base of the Rainbow Bridge. The top photo shows party boats and a fishing boat, alongside offices and residences.

The water works facilities include sludge, sewage, treatment, and pumping. It seems like most of Tokyo’s plumbing ends up being processed and then released into Tokyo Bay in Shibaura. It’s something to think of when using a sink or toilet, or imagining what happens to the sewers during a heavy rainstorm. Below is a map showing five water work facilities.

I like how on this very official map, someone has written “これ?” (here?) with an arrow pointing to the giant round entrance ramp to Rainbow Bridge. I’ll post more photos in the coming days from this walk.