Cut bamboo and hand-written messages mark Tanabata, a traditional summer festival. I like how it’s celebrated in both the local supermarket, and also the old temples. This is from Zojoji temple in Shiba Koen.
Just three days after the earthquake and radiation leakage, I noticed the very elderly security guard at the supermarket loading area applying a pruning saw to a tree across the alley. The tree was part of the landscape outside a beautiful abandoned wood house. The guard did a skillful pruning job. It seemed a strange gesture given the uncertainties and shortages at the time.
The wood house is one of the few pre-war structures nearby, and whatever plants are in front survive because they are extremely hardy and suited to Tokyo’s climate. Once the potted tree had been pruned back, I could see clearly that the pot was split down the middle, the roots circumventing the asphalt, and the tree naturalized in the city. The abandoned house and garden are a small neighborhood treasure. I also love the thick row of ferns, the multi-level racks with potted plants, and how the front entrance has turned into a small jungle.
I have posted before with some sympathy for how ordinary Tokyo people express their desire for public, urban nature, even with fake flowers and real ivy in plastic bottle containers in such unlikely places as a Metro men’s room. I have more ambivalent feelings about the widespread retailing use of fake leaves to signal fall.
Above is a photo from my neighborhood supermarket. Is nature not signaling seasons clearly enough? Are plastic plants the best the supermarket can do to mark seasons. What about seasonal foods and vegetables? Are these leaves stored, washed, and brought out the next year?
The second image is from a neighborhood pachinko parlor. This one mixes an abundance of fake flowers and sexy female imagery to attract attention and customers. I have a feeling that these flowers might have looked better when first installed, and that they may remain next to the Metro station for many more years to come.
Beijing-based American artist Rania Ho hosted an open-house “live” event in Yokohama. During a two month artist-in-residency, sponsored by Far East Contemporaries, Rania created the Vegetable Liberation Project, a “re-farming” that asks questions about urban life, food culture, nature and artifice.
Rania describes the Vegetable Liberation Project as “a work that addresses the oppression of highly conforming supermarket produce by releasing the vegetables back into the wild public spaces around Yokohama and allowing them to naturally revert to their untamed primal state.”