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Leaving Tokyo, the view through a gauzy cabin curtain

cabin_view_window_ogasawaramaru_ship
都市に出るとき、わくわくします。小さな部屋から、東京湾の風景が見えます。

Leaving the metropolis produces feeling of excitement, and some trepidation about a 25 hour boat trip. At least we were in a 4 person room with a table, chairs bolted to the floor, and bunk beds.

Irresistible Nakameguro balcony mushrooms contribute to landscape

だれも都会のキノコの誘惑に勝てない。

Who can resist urban mushrooms?

My architect friend James Lambiasi sent me this photo of Nakameguro mushrooms on a second floor balcony. Do these mushrooms apply to landscape, he wondered? Of course, nature is no less splendid when touched by humans. This lovely, jumbled cityscape- of power lines, bicycles, laundry, exhaust pipe, paper lantern, and fall foliage- is a perfect frame for a double mushroom table and chair set. Thanks, James!

Elaborate sidewalk garden includes plant labels and stools

This Shinjuku ni-chome sidewalk garden is exceptional in its size, care, and labeling. The gardener lives in a former shop in an old building on what is now a busy entertainment district. From the sidewalk, you can see what appears to be merchandise, t-shirts and a few dress shirts, in the front room open to the street.

The gardener and his wife are often visible in the inner room which is partly visible. This type of retail/residential architecture is very Tokyo mid-century, and there are examples in many neighborhoods of former shop owners living in these spaces, some with remnants of their former businesses.

What I love about this sidewalk garden is the gardener’s obvious care and attention to creating a display of many plants. Nearly all of the pots rests on stools or low tables, with the highest ones closest to the road and the lower ones facing pedestrians on the sidewalk.

I am also amazed that the plants are all labeled, even the most obvious ones such as “rose” (バラ). I asked the older man why he labeled them, and he said that people often ask him and he doesn’t always remember the plant name.

The other amazing thing about the garden is just how big it is. There is easily more than one hundred plants. In addition to cover five meters or more in front of his building and his neighbors, he also expanded to an equally large area across the street. He is often outside watering and taking care of the plants.

I admire this gardener’s love for plants, his colonizing public space, and adding beauty in a crowded neighborhood.

Ceramic flowerpots in balcony garden

In May I spent a lot of time on my balcony garden: planting seeds, putting in starter vegetables (corn, watermelon, eggplant, cucumbers, and kiwi), planting herbs (basil, thyme, in addition to last year’s parsley), and adding new flowers and new types of fabric pots and coconut husk soil.

One aspect of my tiny garden I am enjoying are the flowerpots I made at Shiho ceramic studio last year. My theme for the ceramics was geometric shapes in terms of the pots and the glazing. I chose neutral colors so that the flowerpots would not distract from the plants.

Because the apartment is so small, the garden becomes part of everyday life. I see it from the kitchen table, where I often write on my laptop, and from the living room. With sliding walls, the garden is visible from the bedroom, too. Going outside is always just a few steps away.

Although I am a very amateur ceramicist, it is fun to have something you made yourself playing a big role in a small garden. There is something about the clay that provides an earthy feeling when you are in a high-rise with limited soil. I also like the contrast between the flowerpots and the cityscape beyond.