Tokyo Bay

Strange Tokyo Bay view of working ships

towing_tokyobay
東京湾の中で、ひき船とクレーンは海の商業のしるしです。

There’s something very unknown and exciting in seeing working vessels in a modern harbor. Returning to Tokyo, in the foreground is the Ogasawara Maru’s light fixture. In the center of the frame a tugboat pulls a barge with a giant crane. The vista is wide open, and the sea moving at its own pace.

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.

See Tokyo by water, including Japanese garden, funny boat, & historic Asakusa

With A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen, I’ll be leading an afternoon tour tomorrow of Tokyo Bay and the Sumida river for Still City, an exciting workshop hosted at Shibaura House with international participants interested in urban design.

Anyone is free to join us tomorrow, or to use the itinerary on your own at any time. I like the layers of history visible when viewing Tokyo as a once great waterway, and the current reverberations of last century’s apocalyptic earthquakes, war bombing, surrender, and reinvention. The centuries old Japanese garden uses salt water from the bay for its ponds, there will be early fall folliage, and we will ride Himiko, the crazy boat in the photo above.

Still City is a Dutch-Japanese workshop looking at opportunities suggested by viewing Tokyo as emblematic of post-growth urban life. It’s supported by the Japan Foundation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with its local embassy.

——-

Still City Tokyo Program: Tour (30 Oct. 2012) — Tokyo by Water with Jared Braiterman of Tokyo Green Space and Chris Berthelsen of A Small Lab

Overview: We’ll visit a traditional Japanese garden near Shibaura House, recall Tokyo’s river heritage on a water bus up the Sumida River, and explore Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. A frugal afternoon exploring a few still spaces in this churning megalopolis. Spontaneous picnicking, beers from final-generation liquor stores, and foraged city food are all possible.

1. Enjoy a traditional Japanese garden: Meet at Hamarikyu Garden at 1.00 pm (Nakanogomon Gate entrance)
Hamarikyu Garden is an Edo-style garden situated between the glass high-rises of Shiodome and Tokyo Bay. A traditional Japanese garden dating back hundreds of years, this spot by the bay played a critical role in the negotiations between US General McArthur and Emperor Hirohito in settling the war and the fate of the imperial family. Perhaps they partook in duck hunting together, a ruling class pastime marked with a religious shrine.
Where: Hamarikyu Garden is a short walk from Hamamatsuchou, Shimbashi, and Shiodome stations, about 2 km from Shibaura House. You can easily walk from Shibaura House, or take the Yamanote line or the Yurikamome monorail.
Cost: 300 yen admission

2.  Boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa: Meet at Hinode Pier’s Waterbus Station at 2.45 pm
The water bus from Hinode Pier to Asakusa takes about 40 minutes. Going upstream on the wide Sumida River, you can experience Tokyo’s river heritage, and see a good part of eastern Tokyo, including the new Sky Tree. For those new to Tokyo and even for those who live here, viewing Tokyo by boat is a rare and fun event.
Where: Hinode Pier is half way between Hamarikyu Garden and Shibaura House. There’s also a Yurikamome monorail station there.
Cost: 720 yen. Boat leaves at 2.55 pm.

3. Explore old Tokyo at Asakusa: Arrive by water bus at 3.30 pm
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. It has been less gentrified in the post-war years, and retains an old Tokyo feeling. We’ll check out a shrine, a market, and some back street gardening. Time permitting, we’ll stop at a neighborhood bathhouse to relax after the tour. Feel free to return at any time.

Return to Shibaura House: Take the Toei Subway Asakusa Line to Mita station, then walk. 18 min on express train, 210 yen.

Lone pine in beach parking lot

三浦海岸は東京湾の下の方にあります。東京から電車で行きやすいです。夏の涼しいスポットです。

Miura Kaigan is at the bottom of Tokyo Bay, and easily reachable by train from Shinagawa. Another cool spot to relax during the heat of summer.

The beach is a fast train ride away in Chiba

千葉の御宿に着くと、きれいなヤシの並木が見えます。細くて背が高いです。カリフォルニアに人気なメキシコのヤシみたいです。急行で行くと、東京から御宿は近いです。電車からの東京湾の景色が大好きです。

I love how this row of skinny palm trees greets visitors to Onjuku, Chiba right from the station. They look like Mexican fan palms (washingtonia robusta) which are very common in California.

Onjuku is an 80 minute ride on the express train, and the beach is a 10 minute walk away. It’s great to visit the beach even for an afternoon. The trip by train is also fun. I love to see the port buildings and activities.

“Flower blizzard” marks the end of cherry blossom season. With a tinge of regret, it is one of hanami’s most beautiful sights.

最近「花吹雪」という表現をおぼえました。花見の季節が終わるころ、道はピンクの絨毯になります。悲しいのに、ハラハラ落ちている桜の花びらもとても素敵です。辰巳で。

I recently learned the word hanafubuki (花吹雪), which means flower blizzard. At the end of cherry blossom season, city pavement becomes a pink carpet. Along with watching the petals fall from the tree, this carpet is one of the best parts of hanami.

This photo is from a small park in Tatsumi, between Tokyo Bay and the southern edge of Shitamachi. It also borders Yumenoshima. Now that I discovered an Olympic pool in Tatsumi, I will be spending more time in this strange zone caught between nature, industry, trucking and warehouses, new and old housing, and stacked freeways.

Planting trees at Umi no Mori

先月友だちと海の森でボランティア植林に参加しました。二時間以内で、二十人が五百の木を植えました。この新しい都市の森はすばらしいと思います。五十万木はごみの上で育ちます。たくさんの都民はこの大掛かりなプロジェクトをまだ知りませんでした。

Last month some friends and I participated in a volunteer tree-planting at Umi no Mori, a forest being created on a landfill island on the bay. I’ve written before how few Tokyo residents know about this ambitious project promoted during Tokyo’s failed second Olympic bid in 2007. Umi no Mori is meant to carry cool ocean breezes into Tokyo’s crowded urban core.

The tree planting was fun. We were in a group of twenty or so volunteers planting 500 trees in a 25 square meter section. There were about 25 varieties of trees, and we planted them very close together. I learned from one of the volunteer leaders that this dense planting encourages the trees to compete and grow faster than normal. One of the volunteers explained to me that this is part of Miyawaki Akira’s method for restoring forests on post-industrial greenfields.

Creating new waterfront parks and planting 500,000 trees is certainly a great thing for Tokyo. Still, I wonder if this project were less top-down and more open to the citizens what greater impacts this project could have:

1. By encouraging more people to participate in the creation of the park, it would be a great chance to explain to Tokyo citizens about native trees and habitats. It would be awesome to link planting new trees in the Tokyo Bay with also adding greenery in every Tokyo neighborhood, with active participation by city residents.

2. By opening even a small section now, more people can begin to experience the park and perhaps learn more about urban garbage. What precisely is being put into this landfill? How do the layers of garbage reflect our contemporary lifestyles? What can be done to reduce the amount of garbage that must be buried?

I think this park will eventually be fantastic. However, it’s a missed opportunity not to make its creation more participatory, more transparent, more public, more connected to the rest of the city, more educational, and a catalyst for public and collective rethinking of the urban environment and waste production.

Ambassador Cedeno of Costa Rica and his wife Tauli, and Edoble’s Jess Mantell and her friend Miho participated with me.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

Traditional Japanese garden Kyu Shiba Rikyu dates to 1678 when land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay became the residence of Okugawa Tadatamo, an official of Tokugawa Shogunate. Kyu Shiba Rikyu is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens, along with Koishikawa Korakuen. Kyu Shiba Rikyu was destroyed by fire in the 1923 earthquake, rebuilt and gifted by the Emperor as a city park.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu garden

Today this stroll garden with a focal pond and two small islands sits steps from Hamamatsuchou station, and surrounded by office buildings, bullet trains, the JR Yamanote line, a monorail, elevated train, and two elevated highways. The pond reflects manicured black pines, office towers and billboards. There is also a very elegant archery range with grass lawn, tatami seating area, and targets inked by hand. (See photos after the jump below).

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

The pond and island were created over 400 years ago to recall China’s Seiko Lake (Xi Hu) and Reizan sacred mountain in Hangzhou (Zhejiang). Like at Koishikawa Korakuen, Kyu Shiba Rikyu was created at a time when garden design, philosophy, literature, and painting all borrowed heavily from China. Given our last century’s conflicts between Japan and China, is it too much to hope for artistic borrowings in this century?

A wonderful garden diplomacy would be a photographic exploration of these 400 year old Japanese gardens and the Chinese landscapes that inspired them. How have the natural and designed environments changed? What contemporary landscapes could inspire today’s art exchanges?

Continue reading

Real estate ecology

Mitsubishi Estates Heat Island District Plan

Mitsubishi Estates, one of Japan’s largest real estate companies, has created a comprehensive plan for the downtown business district of Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho, where it owns one third of the land.

Mitsubishi Estates’ size and ecological principles lead the company to think beyond the scale of individual buildings. District heating, cooling and hot water systems provide energy efficiency for 65 buildings. Rooftop greening lowered summer temperatures 25 degrees celsius compared with concrete slab roofs, mitigating the heat island effect. Other efforts to lower the summer temperatures include sidewalk sprinklers, street trees, vertical gardens, and permeable sidewalks and roadways.

Mitsubishi Estates Marunouchi properties

I am impressed that Mitsubishi Estates is not only improving the environment and efficiency of its own buildings, but taking a leading role in improving the city’s environment. Working on the district level, Mitsubishi Estates relates their greening efforts to a larger goal of using their district to connect cooler breezes from Tokyo Bay across the office towers and into the Imperial Palace grounds and other parts of central Tokyo.