I love this view of Tokyo from the window next to our elevator. Tokyo is at once dense and variegated, with a mix of two story residential buildings and ten story mid-rises, the towers of Higashi Nakano and Nakano Sakaue, and in the far distance, Sky Tree.
Hitachi recently invited me to visit Sky Tree this summer. I’d delayed visiting because it seems far away from where we live, and because of the long lines. Seeing it complete, however, is very impressive with its exposed structure and unbelievable city views. I recommend going at twilight when the sunlight is dramatic, and then slowly the city lights up as the sky darkens.
Hitachi is responsible for the elevator between the first and the top observatory decks. In addition to its large capacity, the elevator ascends very quickly and is thus a showcase for Hitachi’s latest technologies. I was surprised to learn that when it is windy, this upper elevator is often closed for passenger safety.
I loved seeing the bay, the Sumida River, Marunouchi and in the distance Shinjuku.
Alongside the worship of local dieties, who are physically carried through the streets, Tokyo matsuris bring clans together and express group identity with matching jackets. Sky Tree in the background provides a contemporary marker to what feels like a timeless ritual .
Viewed from Asakusa, not only is Sky Tree bigger, but you can see more details of the lighting scheme. From Nakano, you hardly notice the blue light, and the more subtle red trim. I also like how the willow references Tokyo’s Edo past, and Sky Tree, although newly built, appears to be a 1960s’ vision of the future.
Tokyo is a city always being re-built. In this frame, you see the telephone booth in the midst of street repair, the 1960s Bauhaus-style public housing called “danchi,” and in the distance Sky Tree and a recent luxury tower with heliport. I am fascinated by the heliports on the new luxury towers by the waterfront. Are they a requirement for safety? Or a marketing tool for real estate companies? Should the 99% without access to heliports be concerned?
Tokyo looks more magical at night. Walking across the Sumida River after seeing a sumo tournament, we admired the retro modern view of the bridges, elevated freeways, railway tracks, and inky black river. Even Sky Tree, the latest addition to this skyline, projects a futuristic image that is oddly familiar.
The green neon marks the Kanda river’s last bridge before joining the Sumida river. This river starts at Inokashira park in Kichijoji, west of where we live and winds for 26 kilometers before joining the Sumida and flowing into Tokyo Bay. A few years ago, I co-wrote an article about the Kanda river’s history and potential for new urbanism in Tokyo. You can download the 6 MB document in PDF form here.
At the bottom, you can see that there are still pleasure boats parked at the bottom of the Kanda for river dining and drinking. I’ve never been on these smaller boats.
In the distance you can see the top of Sky Tree. I love this view from Nakano. Because the area around Sky Tree is less built up, you can see it from more directions than Tokyo Tower.
This wide stretch of water, between the Tokyo Bay and the Sunamachi canal, was originally used in Edo times as a timber dock. Now it includes a bridge for trains and features fish that spend the summer jumping out of the water. In the distance, you can see Sky Tree. View from Tatsumi International Swimming Center.
am sorry I didn’t see Sky Tree lit up for one of the first times this new year’s eve. Fortunately, the fantastic photographer and blogger Muza Chan shared this lovely image.
Sky Tree, Tokyo’s tallest landmark, will be finished at the end of this year, and opening next spring. In Japanese it’s pronounced Sukai Tsurii. This is the view from Kinshichou station just south of the tower.
Tokyo Sky Tree is rising on the eastern side of Tokyo. As the new digital television tower, it replaces Tokyo Tower as a symbol of “new” Tokyo. It’s scheduled for completion at the end of this year, and is already visible across Tokyo. In this picture, you can see Nakano Sakaue on the right and Sky Tree in the center.
The Japanese name for Sky Tree sounds funny in English, with two syllables becoming five unrecognizable ones. It’s スカイツリー, or Su-ka-i Tsu-rii. Japanese English is truly its own language. It’s also funny that they chose to use “tree” as a metaphor for this giant tower. In this view from here to there, across Tokyo, there are very few if any trees, green walls or roofs.
The Tokyu Hospital building in Ookayama is truly stunning. I blogged about it last fall, when I noticed that the Tokyu rail/construction/retail conglomerate was advertising “we do eco” in the Tokyo Metro. Seeing the hospital in person exceeded my expectations: a huge building on top of a rail station and enveloped in plant life that will only become more attractive over time as the plants mature.
In addition to the two large facades with vines climbing the height of the building on tension wires, another side has deep balconies that are lushly planted. The landscape is meant to promote healing for the patients who can see and access the balconies from their rooms. I imagine it is also calming for visitors and workers, plus it makes an amazing contribution to the neighborhood and all the people using the rail station.
I would love to see the landscape from the inside of the hospital, and to learn more about the plant selection of this fantastic vertical garden.
Between reading about this project and seeing it recently, I was also very fortunate to meet Tokyu Hospital’s landscape designer, Hiraga Tatsuya (平賀 達也). After working at Japan’s largest architecture firm Nikken Sekkei, designers of Tokyo’s new Sky Tree, Hiraga-san now runs his own successful landscape architecture firm called Landscape Plus.
Alongside institutional and private projects, Hiraga-san contributed to Ando Tadao’s master plan calling for a new Sea Forest in Tokyo Bay (Umi no Mori or 海の森) linked to a network of old and new green spaces that would improve wind circulation throughout Tokyo. This was part of Tokyo’s failed bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Speaking with Hiraga-san, I was very impressed by his vision that an individual site design’s performance and aesthetics are improved when it responds to its context. Hiraga-san also told me about his love for Tokyo’s hills and soil.
It seems very courageous that he has created his own practice despite the poor economy for architects in general, and also Japan’s still limited understanding of the value of landscape architecture. I wish him great success, since I am certain that Tokyo as a city will continue to benefit from his projects.
Before the new year, I took a walk with Alastair Townsend, an American architect in Tokyo, from Yanaka to the new Sky Tree in Mukojima. Above is a sushi restaurant in Kiyokawa, a mostly desolate stretch in the middle of the walk. I was impressed how the shop owners created such a dense jungle in the small space between the restaurant and the sidewalk. The variety and density are magnificent, and it is only with careful observation can you observe the plastic pots supporting this small forest, and the chain link fence buried many years ago in plants.
After the jump, some more images including a decorative rope and bamboo structure covering a sculpted pine tree, the contrast between old and new houses, a residential orange and bonsai persimmon, a pygmy date palm that survives the Tokyo winter, and the oddly named “Sky Tree.”