suburb

Late afternoon outside Kichijoji shrine

この吉祥寺の神社の木陰と静けさはとても良い雰囲気です。武蔵野八幡宮という神社は大きくて、木がたくさんあります。神社の前は五日市街道という古い道路です。この道路は新宿と西の街をつなげます。百年前、武蔵野や中野は農園だけでした。

I love this large shrine and wooded grounds in Kichijoji. Towards the end of a summer afternoon, the shadows and quiet are very inviting. The shrine is called Musashino Hachimangu (武蔵野八幡宮), and it’s on an old street that connects Shinjuku with the (now) inner western suburbs called Itsukaichi Kaido (五日市街道). A hundred years ago, Musashino and Nakano were farms, and you can see the kanji for “field” in both of these town names.

Dahlia reminds me of San Francisco

植物や花も記憶を呼び起こします。ダリアはサンフランシスコ市の花です。

Plants and especially flowers trigger memories. Recently lilacs were blooming in Tokyo, and it reminded me of childhood and my grandmother who was a garden hobbyist in Maryland. I tweeted about it, and heard from a friend about the memories she has of a lilac bush by a childhood bedroom. Seeing hostas in my in-laws’ garden reminds me of the suburban neighborhood of my childhood. Japanese maples, azaleas, rhododendrons, and anemone evoke a Tea Trade era of Anglophilic commerce and class in the United States’ Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

Dahlias remind me of San Francisco, where it is the city flower. I love the huge variety and outrageous colors. And its interesting history of being first discovered in Mexico and then bred in the Netherlands. This red and white specimen was exquisite when I bought it and for another week. The number of blooms and buds was astounding. Not surprisingly, two weeks after buying this dahlia, the remaining buds refuse to open and I wonder if the plant will live even one more month.

I bought this plant at Shimachu, a large home center. Their plants always seems pumped up for sale. Unfortunately because of the proximity to my apartment (very bike-able) and low prices, I often buy from there. It’s a guilty pleasure similar to eating fast food.

Skyburb: High-rise suburban living in the city

Skyburb: High-rise suburban living in the city

From Inhabitat (click for more images), I read about a design concept for high-rise suburban living called Skyburb. It’s designed by Sydney architects Tzannes Associates to provide flexible, modular, and park-like vertical spaces in densely built areas. I am a bit skeptical about the idea of “introducing qualities of the suburbs into denser urban environments” because it is hard to imagine suburban living without privatized open space, automobile dependency, and nuclear family anomie. I think revitalized cities can and must do better than that. Still, the open steel structure and heavily green renderings are certainly appealing.

Urban National Forest

Tenderloin National Forest

In one of the densest, poorest and most dangerous San Francisco neighborhoods, a university class and an art gallery have created what they dub the Tenderloin National Forest. A San Francisco State University class and The Luggage Store Gallery have created a much needed green space, and appropriated the name and logo of the national forest service.

Tenderloin National Forest

On the other side of the Atlantic, class spectrum and new versus old developments, today I also read about Vauban, a new suburb in Germany that puts cars in collective garages on the periphery and devotes its narrow alleys to pedestrians and bicycles. It is a new development on an old military base, connected to the city of Freiburg by tram. And it is planned to reduce global warming and to improve the residents’ quality of life. 

Vauban, a new German suburb

The funny thing is that this new suburb’s street priorities are not that different than most of residential Tokyo.