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.
伊豆の大島は東京の品川区だと知っていますか。浜松町から船で８時間かかりました。Paper Sky Bicycle Club
のツール・ド・オオシマはとても楽しかったです。黒溶岩の砂漠での日の出も優しい自転車おたくたちもローカル料理もすばらしかった。Paper Sky は素敵な雑誌で、ニーハイメディアという出版社は最近自転車、山のハイキング、料理本のグループを打ち上げました。実際に人を集めるのはすごいと思います。
DId you know that Oshima island, off the coast of Izu, is part of Shinagawa ward? From the pier near Hamamatsucho, it’s an eight hour overnight ride on a slow and rather large boat. I recently went with Paper Sky’s Bicycle Club.
Highlights included watching the sun rise at black lava rock “desert” atop the volcano, fun and fashionable cyclists in their twenties, thirties, and forties, the slow over-night boat ride, two onsens, a small port made from a volcanic crater. We saw the end of the camellia season, the blooming of Oshima cherry trees, and ate ashitaba leaf vegetable. Dai dai cocktails cmobined local citrus with booze.
I am now even more impressed with Paper Sky, which is a travel magazine and also the hub of mountain climbing, food, book, and bicycle clubs. My fellow travelers were an interesting mix of bicycle sellers, magazine editors, serious and hobby cyclists, photographers, and creative types. I was surprised that the rental bikes were all Bruno bikes, which have small tires, great colors, and are excellent for city biking and mid-range touring.
With its real world events and groups, Paper Sky’s publisher, Knee High Media, is clearly thinking about a new type of publishing beyond paper, the web, and smart phones.
The continuous flow of people in Tokyo’s largest stations (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo Station, and Shinagawa) is a sensory overload of spontaneously choreographed movement. There is a rush of excitement that no free freeway can create. Crowded highways produce paralysis, while crowded stations welcome and release a dizzying parade of people each moving on an individual path yet combining in a steady flow.
This is a 17 second movie created from 34 still images at Shinagawa station on a weekday during mid-day. One of Tokyo’s oldest stations dating back to 1872, Shinagawa station was rebuilt in 2003, and now offers 22 rail platforms and funnel an eclectic mix of people through this wide concourse: workers at Sony and other multinationals, students, inter-city bullet train and Yokohama-bound passengers, and residents of new apartment towers on Tokyo Bay and of older neighborhoods with hundreds of years of history.
This ordinary transit experience in Tokyo is unimaginable in many world cities. Great transit allows city people to abandon private automobiles and fossil fuels, increase energy efficiency, share infrastructure, and free up roads for higher-value public uses, such as parks, gardens, farms, wildlife habitat, bicycling, music, dancing, and social spaces.
See also Pierre Alex’s Perpetual Yamanote art video.
During an October visit to Okayama, a friend stumbled upon an amazing firefly habitat in Nishigawa park, a small canal with a lovely walking path cutting through the center of the city. Although now hatching below water, as the sign above shows, it was amazing to see how a city creats an urban habitat for fireflies. And it reminds me of Professor Suzuki Makoto’s firefly project in Shinagawa, Tokyo.
The firefly habitat occupies one long block of the Nishigawa park, which has different walkways, seating areas and plant arrangements on each block. For fireflies, there is a small slow-flowing, side canal where the fireflies hatch on the opposite side of the wood bridge from the main canal. A huge wall of vegetation provides nocturnal darkness and protection.
I am curious how long the park has been around, and what it is like during summer firefly season.
More on Nishigawa park after the jump.
On the Nodai trip, Suzuki sensei told me of the work he is doing with a Shinagawa school to create a firefly habitat. This summer he took a middle school class to the countryside to experience fireflies. Once there, he also told the kids that they would have to help out in a rice field– a rare experience for most city kids.
Suzuki sensei is now leading meetings with the school about creating a firefly habitat on or near the school yard at Ono Gakuen Joshichuu Gaku (小野学園女子中学). Fireflies require clean, running water, and the school has the rights to unused wells and is near a stream that has been covered in concrete for decades.
The project has a small funding from the Japanese Ministry of Education, and in addition to Nodai, other participants include school administrators, parents, firefly habitat expert and Nodai alumnus Sakurai Jun (櫻井淳), and a specialist from the Tokyo Four Seasons Hotel (Chinzan-so), which is famous for its urban firefly garden.
In Japan, fireflies are associated with agriculture and rice paddies, and is the title of a chapter of the thousand year old novel The Tale of Genji. Fireflies are also associated with the folklore of hitodama, fiery apparitions of the souls of the recently dead that trick and beguile the living.
I am very inspired by Suzuki sensei’s vision for bringing nature and magic to urban kids with firefly habitat. I wonder how many streams and canals can be daylighted, what plants will promote urban biodiversity, what insects and animals are most important for promoting wildlife in the city.
(Note: Photo by Akihiro, shared on Flickr through Creative Commons)