wind

Sky Tree, the view from below and from up top

SkyTree_view_from_ground

日立さんのおかげで、やっとスカイツリーに登ることができました。構造と景色がすばらしいです。夕暮れのときがおすすめです。

Hitachi recently invited me to visit Sky Tree this summer. I’d delayed visiting because it seems far away from where we live, and because of the long lines. Seeing it complete, however, is very impressive with its exposed structure and unbelievable city views. I recommend going at twilight when the sunlight is dramatic, and then slowly the city lights up as the sky darkens.

Hitachi is responsible for the elevator between the first and the top observatory decks. In addition to its large capacity, the elevator ascends very quickly and is thus a showcase for Hitachi’s latest technologies. I was surprised to learn that when it is windy, this upper elevator is often closed for passenger safety.

I loved seeing the bay, the Sumida River, Marunouchi and in the distance Shinjuku.

SkyTree_sumida_marunouchi SkyTree_sunset

Red edged grass adds compact color and movement in wind

decorative_grass_summer_rain
小さな植木鉢の草の先は赤くて、風で動きます。今年の夏、大好きな植物の一つです。

In a narrow ceramic flowerpot, this red edged grass provides color and movement with the wind. It’s one of my favorite plants this summer.

Morning glory green curtain still blooming

琉球朝顔がまだ咲いています。狭いベランダでは、庭と洗濯物が一緒です。
The morning glory green curtain continues to bloom and provide some vertical greening on the narrow balcony. In previous years, September hurricanes meant taking down the curtain early. The short-lived flowers keep popping up in different places. I also like how the garden co-exists with other domestic functions like clothes drying. We finally took the summer wind chime down a few weeks ago.

Sensing Nature, at Mori Art Museum

I took a short break from the Epic 2010 ethnography in industry conference to see the Mori Art Museum’s Sensing Nature exhibit. Friends had told me about it, so I had high expectations. The exhibit is very conceptual and sensory at the same time, unfolding in a series of large installations that are familiar and strangely new views of our relationship with nature. It continues until November 7 at the top of Roppongi Hills.

It is a strange experience to go from the 62nd floor observatory, with 360 degree views of Tokyo and beyond, into these enormous and enclosed gallery spaces created by three mid-career Japanese artists: Yoshioka Tokujin, Shinoda Taro, and Kuribayashi Takashi. There are feathers, wind, water, forests, mud, mountains, and glass.

I was also struck that in almost all these the imaginative “new worlds,” it is impossible to experience the artists’ dreams without also being hyper-aware of our own presence within them. It is interesting to watch the reactions of other visitors, and to even catch unexpected images of ourselves. I highly recommend visiting the exhibit.

Do wind chimes keep you cooler?

Japanese believe that wind chimes, particularly the sound of glass on metal, make you feel cooler in the summer. I am not sure if I agree, but it’s a nice seasonal decoration. When the wind is too strong on my balcony, I use a clothes pin to silence it.

Flowering volunteer

This plant in the foreground arrived on its own to my balcony container garden, and now it is flowering. The flowers look like peas, and the plant is growing vigorously with a nice cascading shape. Does anyone know the name of this plant?

In gardening, the unplanned is often the most intriguing. I wonder if the seed came in the wind, in the soil of another purchased plant, or by bird droppings. Even a small artificial ecosystem can take on a life of its own.

Okinawa morning glory

Okinawa morning glory

On our balcony, this Okinawa morning glory is just now flowering. All but one of the four Japanese morning glories have died back. The Okinawa morning glory is a vivid “crystal blue,” whereas the Japanese ones are variegated. The Okinawa flowers and leaves are larger, growth vigorous, and best of all the tag claims it is a perennial.

Last Wednesday was the first official day of fall, so the wind charm has been packed away. New fall flowers include fujibakama, cosmos and a “fairy white” daisy.

Here’s what the Okinawa morning glory looks like when the bud is one day from opening. The flower lasts just one day, but each bud is in a cluster of three to six, and there are many forming this month.

Okinawa morning glory bud

Ginza Farm Update

Ginza Farm rice

Yesterday I stopped by Ginza Farm to check on the rice. As you can see in the photo above, the rice seeds are already forming. Despite the challenges of growing rice in a high rise-district, as Iimura-san explained last month, the plants are thriving.

In fifteen minutes, I saw fifteen visitors, plus the attention of the construction workers next door. One visitor was a Ginza gallery worker, another a retiree and his wife, a chef, two smartly dressed young women, and a young guy taking photos of the ducks. Clearly, Ginza Farm has become a neighborhood treasure, with repeat visitors checking on the progress of this urban farm.

Ginza Farm ducks

Born on July 3, the ducks have become almost full grown in just over two months. They have gone from cute yellow ducklings to mature, striped fowl. The sign in front of them explains that they are an integral part of the rice farming, in a method called aigamo nouhou (あいがも農法). Ducks that are a cross-breed that includes wild duck eat weeds and insects in the rice paddy, and provide fertilizer with their droppings. This natural method reduces pesticide, insecticide, and fertilizer, and has been introduced throughout Asia. Aigamo nouhou rice farming was used in pre-Edo Japan, and was recently revived in the 1990s.

Ginza Farm ducks explain aigamo nouhou farming

I am amazed at how well Ginza Farm attracts the neighbors’ attention, how well they communicate their commitment to natural farming, and how they combine attractive design with environmental education. In addition to the well crafted wood logs that forms the paddy and provides seating and tables, there are flowering morning glories, potted pine trees, bamboo, hostas, and wind chimes as decoration.

Morning glory at Ginza Farm

For more information on Japan-Bangladesh duck-rice farming cooperation and science, please see Hossain, Sugimoto, Ahmed, Islam, Effect of Integrated RiceDuck Farming on Rice Yield, Farm Productivity, and RiceProvisioning Ability of Farmers,” Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development, Vol 2, No 1, 2005, pp 79-86.

China’s giant wind farms

China's giant wind farm

There’s an interesting New York Times article about China’s giant wind farms. China is using state funding, low interest loans from state-owned banks, and domestic manufacturers to create six unprecedented wind farms. The scale is mammoth: 10,000 to 20,000 megawatts each, compared with the  4,000 megawatt Texas wind farm proposed by T Boone Pickens as the world’s largest, and that is now delayed.

Apparently the United States government is upset that China is using domestic suppliers who may not have the best technologist or lowest life cycle cost. I wonder if this complaint is serious. Shouldn’t any massive government investment in renewable energy be encouraged? Given the subsidies required at this early stage, do the US trade representatives or anyone else really think China would consider US and European suppliers?

Renewable energy requires huge public investment and technological innovation. Why aren’t US, European and Japanese citizens demanding that their governments invest heavily in this new clean technology? The Chinese government is showing admirable foresight in jump-starting their clean technology industry.