weeds

Can stylish seed bombs make better neighbors?

clintonpark_seedbomb

種爆弾を使って、お隣がよくなるでしょうか? カリフォルニア・ススキと野草の種の入った種爆弾を隣の庭に投げ入れました。何も生えていなくて、さびしいので。パッケージと成分表がなかなか素敵でしょう?

My San Francisco neighbor is an absentee landlady, who grows nothing but weeds in her back yard. After some pre-watering, i threw two seed bombs over our fence. I wonder if these wildflowers and grasses will sprout?

I love the packaging and the ingredient list.

clintonpark_seedbomb_ingredients

Old Showa house, empty lot, 1960s small factory in shadow of Roppongi Hills

六本木ヒルズの後ろに、まだ古い工場や昭和時代の住居が残っています。

In the shadow of Roppongi Hills, one of Tokyo’s most expensive neighborhoods, there are still old factory buildings, Showa-era two story houses, and even empty lots alive with weeds. This mix of scale, land usage, and non-design is delightful.

Shinto prayers at nearby empty lot. Will a house replace this summer-time bat field?

shinto_prayers_empty_lot_na
新しい家を建てる前に神道の儀式をするのは、日本の習慣です。夏、この空き地には、コウモリがよく来ました

I did a double take on my bike as I passed this portable Shinto ceremony on a nearby empty lot. Ostensibly, they are praying to the local gods in advance of constructing a residence. But I think this is not the first year they’ve done the ceremony here.

This summer the weeds were rampant, and the empty space became a bat colony. Somehow the Mercedes in the foreground of a Japanese religious ritual no longer surprises me, even in Nakano.

Another abandoned lot teeming with life in Nakano

東京に、使われていないところはすぐにコインパーキングになります。この中野の空き地は、成長した木やアートや雑草でにぎやかです。

Most unused land in Tokyo quickly becomes automated coin parking for automobiles. I like this empty lot with a mature tree, art work, and amazing collection of weeds.

These two weedy lots for sale attract bats at twilight

東京の夏は、草の背が高くなってたくさん茂ります。この売り出し中の空き地に、コウモリがよく来ます。いまのところ、虫が多そうです。コウモリには都合がいいですね。

A Tokyo summer quickly produces thick and tall weeds. These two empty lots are for sale near our house. In the meantime, they are supporting a large insect population, and attracting bats. There’s something wonderful about this temporary nature spot.

Wildness in Nishi Azabu Juban

When my friend Stokes told me about the wildness in Nishi Azabu Juban, I was somewhat incredulous. He was staying briefly at a childhood friend’s house there, and quickly discovered narrow lanes and uncultivated yards and odd spaces that he insisted on showing me. The neighborhood is in central Tokyo, and includes both very expensive homes alongside more modest, old timers’ residences.

In what must be a planner’s nightmare, late summer weeds are pushing out of cracked concrete steps, barely paved lanes lead to houses, and the urban forest seems ready to reclaim the land. There is something comforting to feel wildness in the center of the city, the impermanence of the built environment, and the power of the unplanned.

Goats tending a bus yard in San Francisco

This image of goats controlling the weeds at a San Francisco bus yard is whimsical and inspiring. Why doesn’t Tokyo (and other big cities) use these natural weed-eaters? The company behind this is called City Grazing, and their slogan: “Our herd of goats are organically fed, will eat your weeds and entertain your children!”

May flowers in front of my apartment building

Dokudami in front of apartment building

Dokudami (どくだみ) is one of my favorite Tokyo weeds. It grows on cinder block walls and sidewalk cracks. Above is a large patch in front of my apartment building in May. The roughly 2 by 5 meter strip is a never changing display of flowers tended by the residents; its wildness contrasts with the clipped hedge on the other side of the entry path and heavily pruned trees in the parking lot.

Here are some other May flowers, including what is called in Japan “American jasmine.” The middle two plants I do not know the names. The last one is Datura, originally from Mexico.

"American Jasmine" in May, in front of apartment building

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