On our balcony, I observed this honeybee harvesting daisy pollen. It was so enthralled with its work that it hardly seemed to notice me and my camera.
Tanuki doesn’t clutter the Azabujuban station area with his bike. He stores his bike in his giant scrotum.
Everyone says how Hayama is where the Emperor has a summer home. No one mentions the Hayama Lawson’s giant, light-up coconut tree. Public landscapes reveal that design in Japan is often neither minimal nor elegant.
This beautiful bonsai was decorating the very chic Omotesando Koffee shop. The cafe is a modern cube inside a Showa house with a cozy front garden. The very cheerful barista explained that the owner made this bonsai himself. I like how the bonsai looks next to the cappuccino and the aged wood of the house and cupboard. The moss is especially lush and lovely.
My favorite Kichijoji plant store is moving soon. I have long admired the owner’s meticulous sidewalk garden, full of surprises. Here are perfect grapes, two of which we have just eaten. The garden is a long narrow strip with some more plants in a light well and the stairway to the lower level entrance.
I like the mix of exotics like grapes, with traditional Japanese plants like pine and raphis palm, plus ferns, cactuses, and so many more plant types. The incredible variety of plants and the impeccable maintenance show off the gardener’s skills and wide interests.
More photos after the jump.
It’s very impressive how quickly 7-Eleven can install new lighting. LEDs are a huge shift in lighting, and this very prominent example will influence millions of consumers.
Many companies have agreed to large energy reductions, up to 20 and 25 percent. I noticed this van outside my local 7-Eleven yesterday. They changed the store’s lighting to LEDs without closing the business. Another store I passed yesterday in western Tokyo was also updated. I wonder how soon all the 7-Elevens will be using these very low energy lights.
I think the new strips of small lights produce a more pleasant light than the old fluorescent tubes. What do you think?
Set off from the main street in Aoyama (246), Kaza Hana is one of my favorite Tokyo flower and garden design stores. I love how they have transformed the exterior of the shop into an incredibly dense and complex vertical garden. It’s a great place for lunch or coffee, or to pick up a gift. Or just admire the amazing wall gardens and displays.
When I was there, I bought a bouquet of moss-like carnations called テマリソウ (temarisou) as an office gift for Tokyo Art Beat. I hadn’t seen this bloom sold before, and it seems to have recently been introduced to European florists by Dutch plant breeder Hilverda Green Trick Carnation as Dianthus barbatus “Green Trick.”
Related: see photos and story from last year’s visit.
Everywhere I walk in Tokyo, I notice the incredible scent of Winter Daphne (daphne odora, or ジンチョウゲ). Beginning in late February, between plum and cherry blossom seasons, this compact bush with glossy leaves produces hundreds and thousands of red flower buds that open pink and release a mesmerizing scent. It must be easy to grow since I’ve seen it planted in front of offices and houses. The photo above is from the new Nakano Marui department store, which has created a very lovely garden and mid-block pathway that I will write about soon.
Tokyo residents and small businesses welcome the gods in temporary homes built of bamboo, pine, and plum blossoms.
I love how the best ones are hand-crafted from pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms. They are intended to be temporary homes for the Shinto gods (kami, 神様). I like the idea that you can create a temporary house for the gods to visit at new year. The three heights of the kamomastu represent heaven, humanity, and earth- in descending order. The shimekazari are smaller, with Shinto rope holding charms such as oranges, folded paper, rice straw, and ferns.
Shimekazari (標飾り) and Kadomatsu (門松) are traditional New Year’s ornaments placed on walls and on the sidewalks outside shops and homes. The city simultaneously empties of people and fills with physical connections to mountains and spirits. This year I took photos of the widest variety I could find in the areas I visit on typical days: on a car bumper, outside a sento, next to a wall of cigarette advertisements, on a busy boulevard, outside a barbershop, pachinko parlor, 24 hour convenience store, and a department store.
After the holiday, these decorations should be burned at a shrine. By mid-January, they are already a faded memory.
See more photos after the jump.
Marui’s new Nakano store offers a generous sidewalk, blurring public and commercial spaces. I love how Marui is making public landscaping its brand identity.
I am super pleased that the new Marui department store in Nakano is building a great entrance. Rather than build up to the edge of the property, Marui has a two-story atrium by setting back its entrance, with four mature trees and hopefully some planter beds. By blurring the line between public and commercial space, Marui will create an engaging sidewalk with plants.
For a short stretch of this narrow sidewalk on the south side of the JR station, there will be plants on both sides.
This store design seems related to the new Shinjuku store landscape, which I blogged last year. That store also has two very popular ground floor food shops (an Italian gelato and French bakery) that are very open to the sidewalk and attractive, new green spaces.
I like to see how smart retailers realize that improving the sidewalk and pedestrian experience will increase business and goodwill. There is no contradiction between generosity and profits. I hope that this public green space becomes a recognizable part of Marui’s brand identity. I’ll definitely check out Marui Nakano when it opens soon.
You can grow peas in Tokyo during the fall!
On Linus Yng’s architectural bike tour, we stopped to see Atelier Tekuto’s futuristic house (see previous post). The houses across both small streets have fantastic curbside gardens. I realized by looking at one of them that Tokyo gardeners grow climbing peas in fall. How cool!
This gardener must really like peas, because there are eight different pots with plants climbing onto this one net. I wonder if they are different types of peas (snap, shell, and other types). When I visited the garden store this week, I bought a simple four-pack of peas to try on my balcony.
I love how this collection of bonsais sits on recycled containers (air conditioning covers?) extending from the sidewalk into the street. The ability to share valuable and mobile plants in Tokyo public spaces continues to impress me. I also love the recycling, and the ingenuity of using the inside of the platform for storage. This collection sits across the street from the Tokyo University Botanic Garden in Bunkyo, and next door to the convenience store that handles the ticket sales.
I love these water plants outside of Shizen in Sendagaya. Shizen is a stylish pottery, homewares, and plant store on the ground floor, with a great restaurant with very reasonably priced lunch specials on the second floor, and a roof garden. A simple bowl with plants can really add visual impact to a central city sidewalk.
I noticed this interesting semi-wild, semi-cultivated space alongside a busy Yoyogi road and in between two train tracks, an elevated overpass, and a convenience store. It shows you what minimal effort and Tokyo’s abundant rain can do to create a space that is lush and full of summer flowers. I like the mix of wildness and anonymous stewardship. The results are such a contrast with poorly organized city efforts like this Shibuya Greening Project, documented by Chris on Tokyo DIY Gardening, which seem doomed to rapid failure.
Starting in May, summer omatsuri festivals are a public celebration of the local gods that exist in even the densest, most commercial parts of Tokyo. One of my favorite festivals is at Hanazono Shrine, in between Shinjuku san-chome, Kabukicho, and Shinjuku ni-chome, an area of department stores, fast fashion, a station with more than 2 million daily commuters, nightclubs, host clubs, and gay bars.
Above you can see a temporary shrine being constructed with metal poles, bamboo, and paper symbols outside Isetan’s flagship department store.
The festival brings together long-time residents, small business owners, and even the large commercial enterprises. The above photo shows a small neighborhood shrine, where I had previously noticed seniors playing a ring toss game. When I visited during preparations, the old timers invited me to participate in carrying their portable shrine (see below) around the neighborhood and to the main shrine. Knowing how heavy the shrine is, I politely declined.