City Greenery 町の緑 

Sometimes we are impressed by people’s respect for trees. These photos were taken on Park Avenue in New York City. Scaffolding like this is often seen in Manhattan to create a safe walkway for pedestrians during construction. There are often trees taller than the scaffolding which peak out above the roof but this is different. The branches are sticking out from the advertisement for this new construction.  The trees look like they are around 10 years old or so and the panel is arranged to wrap the branches so carefully.  It looks like an art piece. The simple feeling that they do not want to cut down a tree resulted to the creation of this “ art”. Is it witty, and nice?  This reminded me of IKEBANA or “ flower arranging ” where the flowers are supposed to be cut and stand artificially on KENZAN or hundreds of spikes to keep the flower straight. But these trees are all alive so in fact you cannot call it Ikebana.



On the contrary sometimes, we are shocked by how easily trees are cut down only because it is going to be an obstacle in the way. The photos below are taken when we were walking in front of Oji shrine (this is a different shrine from the Oji Inari Shrine we did a post for, but located nearby). Probably the age of this tree is more than 100 years, so the city could have registered it as a restoration tree. This reminds me of UNESCO’s world heritage cities. Many local bodies are applying to obtain this registration because they will have a totally different future than those that are not registered as world heritage sites . Registered trees will get people’s attention, for this tree though it does not matter if  it was registered or not.

反対に、邪魔になった木が、すっぱり切られるのを見つけてアッとなることがある。下の写真は東京の王子神社( 前に載せた王子稲荷神社とは全然別、でもすぐ近く ) の前を通り過ぎたときに、たまたま見かけて撮ったもの。樹齢は100年以上だろうか、これだけ大きなクスなのだから、区の保存樹とかなんとかに指定されていなかったのだろうか?世界遺産を思い出した。指定されると、されないでその遺産のある町の運命が決まるので、各地で指名獲得運動が盛んらしい。指定される前と後で、その大切さは、変わらないはずなのだが、指定されてないと全然気に留められることがない。


after  アフター


after !  アフター !


before !!  ビフォー !!

The photo above was taken a year ago when the tree was still alive. The neighborhood still had a relaxed atmosphere despite it being a major node at Oji Station and the city ward hall. Probably these woods of the shrine contributed to the atmosphere, not just that there is less traffic and building density. Using a small path from inside the shrine you can walk down to the promenade posted in this blog. You will see Oji station right there. Luckily this ginkgo tree seems to be registered.



City Trees 紅葉

They have raised the giant Christmas tree (doing to die) at Rockefeller Center. Every year a huge tree is cut down and carried here and then thrown away after the celebration. It is a waste. It is not against environmental ethics?  because it is a part of a rite in which sacrifice is allowed, why not? “the world” is an object to exploit values from! For strict Hindus, according to our staff, they are not allowed to kill vegetables by eating the roots.



I was very impressed with how New Yorker’s respect live trees in their city.  At interviews with potential owners applying to buy an apartment, they often say the reason why they want to move in is that there are many trees on the facing street. There may an idea that higher density of trees = higher end residential area.  A friend who loves greenery and landscape bought a house in a not very high end area and advocated planting trees on the street but his neighbors were not excited by the idea because they did not want to be bothered to clean up after the trees.



from the summer

There may be a correlation between density of trees in your neighborhood and your social standing. It seems that the more expensive residential areas have a higher density of trees. You see fewer trees in poorer areas in New York too. It does not depend on the size of the property. This theory is functionalistic but sometimes it does not explain everything. Sometimes it feels like pantheism exists here.

By the way this theory suggests that many people are too busy just surviving to improve their living environment or to worry about trees. That may be why all the trees in Japanese cities are miserably thinned by the city government like poor bonsai.




These pictures were taken near the south west corner of Central Park. At winter the leaves have all fallen and warm light reaches the ground. In the summer the leaves prevent the hot light from baking the ground and also provide diffuse light shading the sun. Probably the only negative thing is that you have to take care of the leaves that fall in autumn. We believe the easiest way to transform the street, make it beautiful and graceful is to plant trees. In these apartments they have a breath taking space filled with shining golden light filtered through the yellow leaves.



Is there a practical reason why tall trees are so disliked in Japanese cities? It is believed that the frequent typhoons fell big trees, although a gardener hired by the city of Tokyo said that the constant thinning prevents trees from growing strong roots which would anchor them. If that is so then both small trees and big trees often fall and it doesn’t make sense to trim the trees almost obsessively. The next theory is that they are trying to minimize the damage caused when a tree falls. This explanation seems to make sense to me, as it explains why cherry trees are the exception and never trimmed. Enjoying the yearly cherry blossoms is a ritual in which people are crazy for. They probably prefer to be sacrificed under a fallen cherry tree to giving up a cherry blossom party under its beautifully spreading canopy!


United Nation 70 years 国連70周年

The general assembly of the United Nations is in session again this year. This year Obama is going to give a speech, Putin too, and the Pope as well. We have been preparing psychologically.  For the people who live in the neighborhood this inconvenience from the traffic mess may be a special tax we pay to the United Nations. What? No No, the UN should pay tax to New York City…right?


On my way home by bicycle a lot of cars and bikes were blocked from going down the street.  A few police motorcycles are standing in the middle of the 7 lanes of traffic on the avenue. It is like a fire is going on there , but no firemen. So I dismounted and started walking the bike. Immediately a policeman  yelled at me, with a nasty tone “sir, you can not do that” I ignored it but then he yelled “sirrrr, sirrr!!” good thing is he did not say “Hey you!!” but the tone is exactly the same as “Hey you”. He successfully stopped me. I answered :”many pedestrians are crossing the intersection, what is wrong?”  He is getting mad… but he does not know the definition of pedestrian. If you dismount you are pedestrian. Just as a walker with a stroller is a pedestrian, walking a bike you are a pedestrian. It is obvious but his mission in this intense situation and backed by a sense of power- have stopped him from thinking rationally and transformed him into being outrageously aggressive. He must be a nice policeman if he is not in this situation, I can feel it.  I asked one of his colleagues who joined this messy conversation “what about this direction?”  He answered ” No problem” I looked up at the poor policeman, he shows his chagrin like a hunter who lost its prey. OK I will go in that direction!! while I am regretting not having said goodnight to him, a convoy of black SUV’s passed quietly and showily in front of the waiting people.  This must be Putin not Obama as the convoy was not crazy huge.

Now on to the main title, there is a something beautiful generated by this messy event. We happened to find a light show projected onto the UN building as we were walking in front of it during the assembly.

事務所から帰宅の途中、大量の自転車や車が信号の前で通行止めにあっている。白バイが列になって7車線の通りに仁王立ちしている。火事場見物のごとく、何だなんだ、何が起こってるんだと見守る自転車垣、車垣。一方、歩行者は平気でその信号を渡っているから、私も自転車を押して歩くことにした…。すぐに、これまた大量にいる警官の一人が「あんた、おい、お宅、そんなことはできないんだ」と、ご存知のいやらしい調子の声が飛んできた。無視すると、彼はますますいやらしい調子で、「おいお前だよ」と、私を呼び止るのに成功した。歩行者はみんな信号を渡ってるじゃない?と私が言うと、彼は、できないものはできないと言ってるんだ、と言う調子。自転車を押して歩けば、歩行者となることを彼は知らないらしい。乳母車を押すのが歩行者なら、自転車を押して歩くも歩行者であることは明らかなのだが…。この張り詰めた異常な状況では彼らの使命感と権力の裏打ちが合理的な思考を停止させて、ヒステリックな横暴さを作り上げるのかもしれない。こんな状況でなければ彼は善良な警官に違いない、なんとなくそれがわかる。加わってきた彼の同僚に、こっちの方向ならどうなの?と、聞いたら、問題ないよ、と言う。彼の方を見たら、獲物を逃がした口惜しさを満面にしている。なんだあ!と隣の通りに出ることにした。かれにGOOD BYE を言わなかったことを後悔していたら、黒塗りSUV車の大名行列がスルスルと、かつ轟轟と通りすぎた。オバマだったら、こんなもんじゃ絶対にないから、たぶんプーチンだったんだろう。通行止めが終わり、引き上げる警官たちがヤンヤの喝采を受けた。



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This year is the 70th year anniversary of the foundation of UN, you know. Although I think just 50 people saw it tonight. It is like our exclusive show. We are so moved partly because of this occasion running into this beautiful thing, but moreover, it shows hope that the world will definitely be better if every country shares these goals. Please take a look at the slide show below which is from the 15 minutes that we watched there.

今年は国連の70周年なのでそれを記念した企画らしい。この夜このショー を見たのは通りがけの50人くらいじゃないだろうか?数少ない特別な招待客になった気分だ。感動したのは偶然に綺麗なものを見つけたこともあるのだけれ ど、それ以上に、これらのゴールが世界中で共有されれば、本当に世界が良くなるという希望を見せてくれたからだ。15分ほどのショーをご覧あれ。

for everyone

Labor Day in New York ニューヨークのレーバーデイ


Today is labor day although we are going to work. We decided to take a detour  to the office through Central Park and have breakfast in the park.  We brought coffee in a thermos and our round challah  bread as it will be the Jewish holiday soon.  The streets were very quiet, hardly any cars and the park was full of New Yorkers relaxing and enjoying the quiet city.

今日はレイバーデイ、勤労感謝の日とでも訳せばいいのだろうか?実際は夏は今日で終わり! を意味していて、「別荘で夏休みを取っていた人たちが明日からどっと帰ってくる日」と同義に使われる。祭日なのだけれど、私たちは働かないといけない。そこで、事務所へは遠回りだが、セントラルパークに寄り道をして、朝食を食べることにした。魔法瓶に入れたコーヒーとパンを持って出かけた。パンは卵のいっぱい入った餡なしアンパンといえば大体当たっているだろうか?もうすぐユダヤの祭日で、これを食べるしきたりがある。日本のアンパンの起源かも知れない。


We got to the park at  9 o’clock, maybe that is why there weren’t so many people ….. actually there were many dogs with their owners tagging along. We  passed some of the popular tourist destinations and finally got to our favorite spot… the boat pond. For us the park is an amazing thing, they talk about it being the back yard for urban New Yorkers but it is actually our very own urban space. We can imagine ourselves in a cafe, quietly watching the world go by.  There is also just enough of a garden so that we can debate what the flowers are.



The lakes and ponds in Central Park are actually man made but look very natural, except this one. It is a formal framed regular shape. Our cafe is located just in front of the lake all although we hardly use it as a cafe. You can sit on any of these chairs without ordering food. We like this atmosphere because it is like the cafes on the streets but you can enjoy it without spending anything.

セントラルパークの池は自然に見えるように作られているものの実はどれも人口池。この池は例外的にルネサン ス風の整形式の形に縁どられている。その真ん前に目的のカフェがある。僕らはほとんどこの店で何かを買うことがないのだけれど、椅子には勝手に座る。街中の通り にあるカフェのような雰囲気でありながら、気軽に利用できるからユニークな存在。


Well, nothing more in our thermos now, it may be the time to say goodbye and head to the office.


Arakawa River, Tokyo 荒川土手


The Arakawa River runs in the northern part of Tokyo. It used to flood every time a storm hit Tokyo; its name means Raging River. All of the rivers in Japan have been objects to tame not something to integrate into the urban landscape. People cannot find a place for them in their image of city living. The Thames in London and the Seine in Paris have been linked to people’s daily life and contributed to the urban structure and cultural development.

A chain of golf courses and ball parks are dotted along the edge of the Arakawa River, I understand that sports fans go every weekend to enjoy it. Today we were surprised that there were many people enjoying the space particularly bike riders; zipping past on the upper bank with drop handles, in spandex outfits and special bike shoes, semi pro… Where did they come from? This is not a location that you can come to by foot from the center of the city and quite a good distance by bike. Once you get on this green belt you can go for miles and miles comfortably without any disturbance but to get to it you need to brace yourself to go through unkind traffic with the thousands of intersections and traffic signals along the way. There are no bike paths in Tokyo, how then to connect to this space?

荒川は東京の中を流れる川ではあるけれど、北の端を掠めるだけで、治水が解決した今や、川沿いに住まないかぎり、毎日の生活に関わってはこない。ロンドンのテムズややパリのセーヌように川が市井の生活にを豊かにしてきたのとはだいぶ違う。荒川では、ゴルフ場と運動場で河川敷が いっぱいで、スポーツファンが日曜試合に来るか、せいぜい近所の人々が気晴らしに堤防に上がるだけだと思っていた。ところが驚いたことに、今日は自転 車を楽しんでいる人でいっぱいじゃないか。かなりの割合でドロップハンドルにスパンデックスでまたがり、ベタルに固定する専用靴に身を固めた セミプロ仕様の人々。彼らはどこから来たのだろうか?チンタラ歩道の上を走ってこなかったのは確かだ。ここは町の中心から、気ままに歩いてこられる距離ではな いけれど、自転車で来るのに最適な距離のところにある。そして、土手に着けば、川に沿って延々と気持ち良く走れる。しかし、そのためには、おびただしい数 の信号と車に煩わされつつ、大量の排気ガスを吸って来ないといけなかったはず。ロンドンやパリ、ニューヨークのような自転車道はここにはないから、ここに くるには長い不快な道のりを乗り越えてくるしかない。

Evey map of Tokyo shows the huge area of the river and if you added up all of the urban green spaces, the parks and temple grounds the area of the river banks would be larger, but people’s image of Tokyo does not include a river. It is isolated and segregated from urban life. But if we had bike lanes to get here? Even spontaneous riders looking for a leisurely ride will come not only the semi-pros. Cars cannot park here, by foot it is not easy, by bus or train is ridiculous but by bike it is perfect. You can link your daily life to the view of the wide open sky, water and nature. Tokyo is a city which needs dedicated bike lanes, a route connecting its green spaces. It would drastically change Tokyo life.

地図を広げればす ぐに解るように、東京中の公園や神社を足し合わせてもずっと巨大な空間がそこに横たわっている。それなのに、私達が心に描く東京の都 市イメージには荒川は入ってこない。川は都市から孤立して、都市生活に組み込まれていない。しかしもし、自転車レーンがあったらどうだろう?スパンデックスのセミプロだけでなく、東京中から人 がママチャリに乗ってここに集まってくるに違いない。車は駐車できないし、徒歩でも大変、電車やバスで来るのはあほらしい。でも自転車ならちょうどい い。そうすれば、大きな空、水辺、自然が日常の生活に繋げられる。東京こそ、自転車レーン、専用道がふさわしい町ではないか?そうすれば町が変わるだろと 思う。



40 km (25 Miles) / h 制限速度40キロ


This is the 6th year they have held summer streets and it is now called a “yearly” event. This is our 6th annual ride around Grand Central Station on a route that is normally reserved for cars only. It is an amazing view, one that I will never get tired of. It is great to ride, walk or jog on Park Avenue without cars. This being New York there are actually bicycle traffic jams. This year I was collecting signatures for a petition to add more bike lanes in Manhattan and as I made my way down Park Avenue at 7:30 (the hardy joggers were up and running even though it was raining.) As the day wore on (unfolded) and the weather got better more and more people came out to enjoy the streets. There are lots of activities and many volunteers to make this event happen and work so well but -New Yorkers seem to take it for granted now that they will get to take over this 10km route on Saturdays every August.


The route goes straight up towards Park Ave. from the Brooklyn bridge- so interesting how the street changes as you work your way north. It is almost a forbidden pleasure inhabit these spaces as the motorists do and see the city from the point of view of a car. Soon in New York City we will have a speed limit of 40km (25 miles) per hour for all motorists-everywhere as part of our new mayors vision of zero program from traffic accidents, so maybe the motorists will decide that it is just as fast and way more fun to ride a bicycle?



open to public 3 公共に開く-3


This plaza in Mid Town is open to public as we posted last winter. The site belongs to a private building or a corporation but it is available to the public. You can walk through the block and enjoy the space. Instead of building on this site it provides much-needed space for the public. The site owner can obtain additional volume for the building, more than the regular limit. The thick Plexiglas cylinder is inserted into a cascade to make a tunnel. You can see the water splash and make waves on the glass. You feel like you are passing into a waterfall. The chairs provided at the plaza are solid cast aluminum, not cheesy. This design looks like they allowed an ample budget for the project. Although is it just us who feel this space is too cold? It is too dark because of the shadows created by the adjacent tall buildings? In the summer it is a nice relief, but….


The sound of the water helps to drown out the traffic noise and this mid block walkway connects up to the others in the block to make 6 1/2 avenue….just for pedestrians. As they add more connections each block is different, and over time the connections have become more elaborate and this one incorporates an outdoor seating area.