This pedestrian overpass, which dips below the freeway in Shiodome, is a hot mess. I often wonder why city planners value pedestrians and bicyclists so much less than private vehicles and trucks. This is not how I’d like to walk to work from the station.
The house with the orange vine, aka forest house, is where I think Totoro is hanging out with tanuki. This quiet alley rarely has cars, and it makes for a calm walk to the station.
Sometimes, I think nothing surprises me any more in Tokyo. And then I see this lovely woman walking down Koenji’s Look shopping street with her pet turtle. The turtle looks like he is swimming in air, legs reaching forward and back and eyes taking in the surroundings.
The human guardian explains that she is carrying this towel under her umbrella to wipe off the turtle. Apparently, her turtle does not like to get wet! Thanks to both of them for adding some cheer to a rainy day.
Even on the briskest cold days, it’s such a pleasure to cross Shinjuku Gyoen. The bare cherry tree in the foreground, reflections, and upside down landscape and sky are dazzling on a clear day.
Last month Australia’s smlwrld‘s Bianca and Lucas invited me to go with them on a walking adventure in Shibaura. They took some great photos and wrote up a post calling Shibaura “an infrastructure theme park.”
I’d only been once before, drawn to see the new cultural space Shibaura House. This second time, in addition to stopping back at Shibaura House, we explored the neighborhood and were stunned by the mix of uses being made of these small man-made islands criss-crossed with canals.
There are many water works facilities, a giant incinerator, docks for shipping and at least one re-purposed warehouse named Tabloid, offices from the 70s and 80s, newer apartment towers, industrial buildings, a cement factory, elevated monorail, and the base of the Rainbow Bridge. The top photo shows party boats and a fishing boat, alongside offices and residences.
The water works facilities include sludge, sewage, treatment, and pumping. It seems like most of Tokyo’s plumbing ends up being processed and then released into Tokyo Bay in Shibaura. It’s something to think of when using a sink or toilet, or imagining what happens to the sewers during a heavy rainstorm. Below is a map showing five water work facilities.
I like how on this very official map, someone has written “これ？” (here?) with an arrow pointing to the giant round entrance ramp to Rainbow Bridge. I’ll post more photos in the coming days from this walk.
It’s funny how plants connect you even more with people than nature. Thank you Twitter’s @mygardeninjapan for this apple mint. From balcony to balcony!
I recently met up with Twitter’s @mygardeninjapan after exchanging many online comments and thoroughly enjoying his detailed documentation of his balcony garden in Yokohama. Along with @a_small_lab and Tokyo DIY Gardening‘s Chris, we had a bento lunch in a temple garden and then a fascinating walk around the Omotesando danchi.
It was very kind of @mygardeninjapan to give us these small wooden pots with mint plants from his garden and hand-made signs with illustrated care instructions. His ladybug logo reminds me of his blog story about his efforts to attract ladybugs to his balcony garden. I am looking forward to growing and eating this mint in my balcony.
Tokyo’s great transit system allows you to go many places without a car. You can enjoy the scenery and meeting many people.
The days are getting shorter, and with clearer skies the sunsets are remarkable. Recently I have been enjoying the views from elevated trains and stations. Trains in Japan are always punctual, clean and efficient. And apart from peak commute times, you can relax and enjoy the peacefulness of leaving the driving to others. Tokyo’s superior urban transportation system allows for a city where private cars are not the main form of mobility. It is still surprising to me how much walking, biking, conversation, playing, and reading dominates Tokyo’s many small streets, with the occasional car slowing down to pedestrians’ pace.
Why is the entrance to Roppongi Hills so ugly and uninviting?
Every time I walk from the subway into Roppongi Hills I am shocked at the extremely ugly first view of this mega-complex. In addition to the elevated freeway, pedestrians are greeted by this horrendous, wide, astroturf-covered dead space in front of Roppongi Hills North Tower.
How could this make people want to enter Banana Republic? And what does this say about Mori Building’s vision for integrating their properties into their neighborhoods and communities? I feel that this forgotten and dirty space implies that the real landscape only begins at the podium level and that the North Tower is not of equal status to the rest of the complex, despite being in the front. It’s as if they imagine that their important customers enter the complex only by car.
This lack of respect for pedestrians, neighbors, and context is completely unnecessary. The smallest gesture would improve this space and make it more inviting and alive. If Mori Building reads this post, I hope they will consider improving this entryway to their otherwise well landscaped property. If anything, improving the entrance might also provide an opportunity to consider how to extend their landscape ideas further out into the neighborhood, creating connections with other shops and residents, and building a larger and healthier eco-system that would benefit Mori and their neighborhood.
Last night I attended the last Pecha Kucha Tokyo of the zeros decade, one block west of Roppongi Hills, and remembered that I had taken this photo weeks ago. Each time I am shocked as if for the first time. Outside of the expensive office towers and glittering malls, I wonder how such an ugly neighborhood can be attractive to multinational companies and foreign ex-pats.
Fall foliage in Tokyo is spectacular. I took these two images on a Sunday walk: the one above in Shinjuku Gyoen, the one below on the boulevard near Sendagaya JR station. I wish Tokyo had more mature trees.
Crows are everywhere in Tokyo. And they are larger than their US cousins. Many people complain about their aggressiveness and ability to recognize people. Several people have asked me how the urban habitat can repel them, and some urban beekeepers claim that bees chase away crows.
A colleague recently told me about Lyanda Haupt’s recent book, Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness. I am curious how this wildlife naturalist succeeds in humanizing a bird that most wish were gone.
My colleague reminded me that crows are one of the few urban wildlife that walk on two legs like humans. It’s also funny that in Tokyo, salarymen and the constant black suits are often referred to as crows.
On Thursday, the Imperial Palace hosted a formal New Year Poetry Reading, with this year’s theme being “light” (hikari). On this very formal occasion, the Emperor and Empresses read poems about walking in the gardens of their palace, the Crown Princess about walking in her garden in Akasaka, and the Crown Prince on seeing the sunlight from the top of Mount Fuji.
I was impressed by this very ritualized event celebrating the beauty of nature, the love of gardening, and the feelings evoked by the seasons. Although this blog most often celebrates ordinary peoples’ gardening efforts, this event reminds me that gardening in Japan permeates high society, artists and regular citizens, and is expressed in ritualized events and daily life.
Called waka, they are short poems of 31 syllables in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. The poems capture natural beauty that is both refined and open to anyone, regardless of palace ownership. Images include sunlight, trees, ponds, paths, grass, with feelings evoked by seasons and the time of day.
After the jump, I have included this year’s poems in English translation and Japanese (romanji).
The weather is turning very cold in Tokyo, the leaves are turning color and fall camellias are now in bloom. This bright pink “sazanka” (サザンカ) surprised me on my walk through Koenji. Below you can see the context of this unexpected pleasure.