urban design

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.

Entrance to Shibuya from Roppongi is a river of auto traffic

六本木から渋谷に来ている車の流れが50年前の都市デザインを保ち続けています。東京はいつ21世紀の都市デザインをはじめることができるでしょうか。

Layers of auto traffic rush towards Shibuya station. Has any global city maintained its aging urban auto infrastructure as thoroughly as Tokyo? Planning wise, Tokyo today can feel like it’s reliving the 1960s, as if nothing has changed in terms of mobility, urban design, and creating maximum value in dense cities.

Poppies growing in a crack in the sidewalk

I saw these beautiful poppies growing in the crack of a sidewalk. It reminded me of the first image that I took for Tokyo Green Space two years ago, of pansies growing in a sidewalk crack. I am still struck by the ingenuity and generosity of Tokyo’s unheralded urban gardeners. They are beautifying an environment that is often ugly, overbuilt and poorly planned.

The poppies make me think of the pansies photo. I recently received an interesting request by email asking for permission to include that original photo in a book about urban design and climate change that Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer of the  City of New York, is writing.

I am continually amazed by the importance of observing small details and the power of the internet to connect people who are distant by location, profession, and circumstance. It is both humbling and inspiring.

Replacing Dead Urban Spaces with Living Habitat

The Huffington Post published my new article, Replacing Dead Urban Spaces with Living Habitat. Please read, comment, retweet, or share on Facebook. Thank you!

Figure 1: Two views of camellia (sazanka) in central Tokyo: close-up and context