“Have you seen my rice field?”


「私たちの田んぼを見ましたか」と聞かれました。畳屋のオーナーは歩道に置いたバケツで稲を育てています。Shibaura HouseのKanto Tour Guideの途中で偶然に会いました。家の畳を変えようかと考えています。

On Shibaura House’s Kanto Tour Guide in Suginami, we saw an open door and a man making tatami mats above the garage. The friendly proprietor of Haketa Tatami shop in Shin Koenji told us that his family has had this business in Suginami for decades, starting with his father. In addition to showing us his craftsmanship, he asked us whether we had seen his “rice field.” It’s in the white bucket, to the left of the shop sign.

I also learned that tatami mats should be changed every 3 or 4 years. Ours are coming up on 6 years, so maybe it’s time to order a new set?


Fantasy landscape with fountain, palm, and odd characters

A miniature fantasy landscape freely shared on a Tokyo curbside.

ミニチュアのファンタジー風景が舗道 の縁石を占領している。

This tiny curbside garden is a fantasy landscape in miniature in what was probably dead space previously between the house and the road. There’s moving water, a palm tree, plants, and several odd characters. I found it just across the road from the giant tree on that former country lane that is now barely visible in Suginami, not far from Opera City.

The contents are fun in their whimsical incongruity. Even in this tiny space, there are several overlapping vignettes. A tiny palm tree joined by a sliver bunny and a character that appears to be a cross between European Romanticism and anime; several Sago palms (Cycas revoluta) beneath some mid-height bushes; and the fountain with water plants and a character trio with a helmeted princess, a red Cobra super-hero whose left arm is a semi-automatic weapon, and an over-sized yellow dog. The fountain features plants, a tiny cliff-side, and bathtub ducks.

The garden structure is very DIY: low-cost, anonymously designed, and highly imaginative. I love that the gardener is sharing this creation with the neighbors and passers-by. The garden’s minimal foundation is constructed mostly of  low-lying brick with some wood fencing. I particularly like the tag that shows the flowers that will bloom later.

Thanks again to @ArchitourTokyo for the great bike tour where we discovered this sculpture garden.

Architecture bike tour with Linus Yng: First stop, space cube residence


Why is cool Tokyo modern architecture devoid of urban biodiversity?

I recently took Linus Yng’s wonderful bike tour of (mostly) Suginami, with a few detours in Setagaya. I highly recommend exploring Tokyo on a bike with this Swedish graduate student in architecture. His tours combine visits to notable contemporary buildings, and a broad understanding of Tokyo’s history, topography, planning, edges, forgotten spaces, and endless complexity.

I’ll be running a series of posts sharing what I learned on this 3 hour ride. There were so many interesting designs, so many traces of country roads and Edo canals, and some surprises along the way. Today’s post looks at a remarkable small residence, designed by Yamashita Yasuhiro of Atelier Tekuto, our first stop.

I am amazed that in Tokyo, people are able and willing to pay for innovative small residences that stand out from the vast majority of large and small buildings that are built rather than designed. I love how futuristic this house is, and wonder what it’s like to live inside.

Yet from a biodiversity and neighborly perspective, I am very skeptical of this project. It seems all the more ironic when I read the Design Boom interview that states the architect “creates his architecture based on the system of society, the environment and the function.” Although the neighboring buildings suffer from a lack of design, I admire how social they are in terms of informal gardens.

I wonder why this designed residence is so void of plants. Perhaps the owner has no interest in plants. Yet, I wonder if the architect could not have specified some low maintenance, high impact plantings that would have brought life to the building. Perhaps architects don’t want organic material interfering with the shapes and lines they create. Given how street gardens are so uniquely Tokyo, I think this architect, like many others, has missed a big opportunity to re-imagine public green space and sociability.