Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When At Length A Reader Writes

I would be in remiss not to post the result.

Reader Troy Yuen, via email, in response to my post Urban Harvest Tokyo of July 17:
In my neighborhood and surrounding area (Meguro--Shirokane) while there is a lack of FREE public green space, there is a lot of private greenery available. For example, 八芳園, 雅叙園, 自然教育園 (which is HUGE). But other areas seem to have minimal amounts greenery, public or private. Shibuya, Ebisu (I'm still wondering where is the "garden" in Ebisu Garden Place).

Fortunately, in the last 10 years there seems to be some attempt to increase the amount of green space in central Tokyo. Midtown built a big garden/park/pond in the back. I noticed that some of the buildings in Otemachi have built gardens on their roofs. Next to the new Otemori building there is a mini-forest including trees and a small stream.


Flowers in Jindaiji Botanical Garden, Chofu City, Tokyo Metropolitan District on July 20, 2014. Photo courtesy: MTC.


While sound in theory, the idea always rankled。Only one who does not live in the TMD would ever think of the micro-farms as wasted land. Without the farms, life in the great concrete metropolis would be far less livable. The central wards are woeful in the paucity of their area devoted to parks. Such public parks as exist are uninviting due to bad design, regulations and a love of bare dirt.


There is so little greenery in central Tokyo that some of the best hanami parties I've been to have been at cemeteries (青山墓地 and 染井墓地)!!

Not sure that the "love of bare dirt" is entirely accurate. There are many parks that have nothing but dirt and there seems to be no attempt to grow grass, but I think that a possible reason for that is the few public parks that exist are overused to the point where they've given up trying to grow grass.

There is a park in Shirokanedai with a fountain, minimal exercise equipment, no playground, just a few benches and open space. They are always trying to grow grass by making some areas of the park off limits to give the grass a chance to grow. But once the off limits area is reopened for public use it turns into dirt pretty quickly because of overuse. They've recently tried a new strategy by laying a green protective plastic net over most of the park to prevent the grass from being trampled to death while still allowing sunlight and water to pass through. It seems to work pretty well as the grass is thriving and growing through the net.

One complaint about Tokyo greenery that I do have that you didn’t mention is that there are very few public places in Tokyo where BBQs are allowed (none inside the Yamanote as far as I know). Even where they are allowed, for example Futakotamagawa, there are rules regarding noise, start/end times, etc.

Thank you Mr. Yuen, for your readership and your missive.

1 comment:

Richard said...

It's a truly lamentable situation. Look for a house/flat near a park in central Tokyo. You have Yoyogi or Arisugawa - Shinjuku is ok but there is often a North Korean feel to the place with continuous announcements via the tannoy system or bag searches before you enter. The remainder are some small slivers of land beside some rivers. Outside the Yamanote line it is even worse, and there is little to break the sprawl of houses and concrete until really you get to the mountains (thankfully it's possible to see at least some greenery here and they haven't yet concreted over them or built on them).

Just imagine if SCAP had abolished the Emperor. All that would be left of the Imperial palace would be a small plaque on the side of a shopping centre. The moat would be gone, and all that would stand in its place would be these hideous office blocks and cheek by jowl boxes they build.

MEXT worry that children's athletic abilities are declining but is it really any wonder when every square inch of the city is built on. Recreation and rest may also be good for GDP, or even beyond such a narrow indicator, may help contribute to overall happiness and well-being. The destruction of the environment in Tokyo must surely contribute in some way, not only to the lack of physical exercise of children, but also to the lack of social interaction and high levels of suicide found here. Surely the heat island issue is also in some way due to the lack of any trees in the centre of Tokyo.

I heard that by 2020, 10 or 20% of Tokyo's houses will be empty. The town planners (if there actually are any) could use this as an opportunity to spread more greenery within the city. In two or three generations it could perhaps be a reasonable place to live.