Parking Lot City Anan 駐車場都市-阿南

The photographs of the countryside in Japan that are said to be scenic, are so to speak, over-consumed images. Everyone finds them beautiful, but everyone has already seen them in the media and nothing is fresh. In this blog, we have been introducing scenery that is not special, scenery that is maybe too plain for the locals, but beautiful scenery (I think) if you look at it with fresh eyes. The plum orchard that we posted recently is an example. But unfortunately this time photos may not be beautiful. This city borders a national park and has a beautiful view, but once you enter the city, you can see what has become a typical ugly, super messy townscape.


The city once prospered as a castle town and a local stop along the old inter city road. However, a new road bypassed the narrow old road, another bypass of it, and another bypass of the first one, and the city is steadily moving away from the old center. Now the old shops are almost wiped out, the shutters of the shops are all closed. There are now only 2 “machiya” shops left to imagine what the street view looked like when it was the heart of the city.


These photos were taken around 4 pm on weekdays. It’s not a weekend, nor is it early in the morning before the city wakes up. ここに載せた写真はかつては最も繁華であった地区でとったもの。すべて週日の午後4時ぐらいにとられたもので、週末でもなければ、早朝、街が目覚める前でもない。

It’s just a 1-minute walk from the most popular railway station. There are vacant lots like missing teeth between the shops with the shutters closed. They are the sites of former stores that have become parking lots. I was stunned to see how many parking lots actually existed when I plotted them on the map of the old city center.

ここは、ひとけの最もあるはずの鉄道駅の目の前、駅前から歩いてわずか1分のところ。シャッターを閉じた商店の間に歯が抜けたように空き地が点在している。かつての商店の跡である。ここには駐車場がどのくらいあるのだろうか? 旧市街中心部の地図にプロットしてみて、唖然とした。

In the oldest area along the historic main street lined with shops, 39% of the ground is parking (in orange), and in the next oldest area along the main street, 30% is parking (in yellow). The expanded city area from the time when the first new road was built, 20% is parking (in blue), and in the latest expanded area, 20% is parking (in light blue). Scattered agricultural sites in the newest area, will soon join the parking, it is only a matter of time before this area is also 30% parking, the same as the older city. It can be called a “parking lot city”, but it would be more appropriate to say that buildings are erected on a huge parking lot.


If you try Google Street View, you’ll find that these are not carefully selected photos showing parking lots. If you actually walk down the street, parking lots will appear one after another. The decline of the old heart of the local city is a common problem (for various reasons) all over the world, but the situation is extreme here. “Urban planning” assumed that cities are expanding, but that is not the case here. The mayor is studying how to solve this.


The scene above is in front of the railway station which is supposed to be most vigorous spot in the city. When it was busy, people would go out into the streets, talk to their neighbors, and hang out without any particular purpose. There was a kind of daily enjoyment and refreshment. Is it fun to walk here now? Now people go out on the street only when they have a specific need.


People living here seem to have given up on obtaining a beautiful living space. But that’s actually not the case. In some parts of the city, I found trees planted, though they were tucked away in unnoticeable locations. Even with tiny leftover land, people are looking for a beautiful environment. Trees are planted in the corners of the parking lots and in unusable land, where residents have maximized income by making it a parking lot. If each person thinks of the city as his/her own garden and strategically planted trees in the city, the relaxed life will return. Of course, the city can help the activity. What about a communal vegetable garden? Will the city come back to life from there? I think there is a possibility. Wouldn’t it be possible to survive as a beautiful residential area, not a commercial area?


Imagine the city in such a landscape. And if the city can’t create a vitality of its own, it would be a good idea to have people come from outside. Remember the national park starts here, wouldn’t it be possible for many people to stop by in this gateway town? If the city is relaxed, enjoyable, and beautiful you will visit it. For that purpose, economic activity is not always necessary. People from outside will skip this town because it’s getting easier and easier to get to their final destination on the newest highway. You need to plan. Couldn’t it be a station town for people who want slow traveling, such as those who travel by bicycle? Tourists rushing in by car will exhaust the National Park. This idea also will take advantage of the national park and maintain it as a sustainable resource by preventing over-tourism.


An island in Shikoku 四国の右下 出羽島

double click to brow up ダブルクリックで拡大

I knew this island was very close when I was a child but I have never been here. Until a friend invited me to visit I hardly thought about this island. The 2km of shoreline has a beautiful oval shape. The island has a population of 70 in this fisherman’s village. There is a small boat commuting for 15min between the main island 6 times a day.

灯台もと暗しとはこのことか 。建築家の友人が先日招いてくれるまで、ほとんど何も知らなかった。島は全周約2k余りのきれいな楕円形で人口70人の漁村である。上の写真の対岸の四国本島から15分、一日6往復の連絡船が出ている。

There is no doctor and no children now. If you see young people they are weekend fishermen from outside. The old school now is just a platform for an emergency helicopter.


The island belongs to a semitropical zone. Some palm trees are growing here. The invisible border between the semitropical and temperate zones is between this island and the main Shikoku Island.


The island preserves some traditional houses from a century ago, though the conditions are not good. My friend is an architect who is volunteering his time to repair one of the houses.  There are no drawings left, over time several renovations were done so that now no one knows what it was like when it was built, which is the ultimate goal of this preservation. He uses his experience and his speculation based on the remainders of the renovated construction, the choice of material and the customary way of house building at the time. The process is a chain of finding evidence, hypothesizing, and finding more evidence to prove that again…a total forensic study in a detective story. The architect comes here after 3 hours drive from his office.


Here is a philosophical dilemma. If you precisely save the old structure, the house will collapse in the next big earthquake which is considered to hit here very soon. The last hit was a long time ago and the earth has built up a large preserve of energy by now. Then what is the meaning of this preservation of cultural heritage? It is a lie to reinforce the structure in the modern manner. So what to do? This is a practical problem.


The side of the island facing to Shikoku island is for fishing boats and houses, but the ocean side is hilly and covered with natural forest and an undistributed ocean view. The highest point of the island is in the center and has a small lighthouse and an abandoned viewing platform.


The quay is the center of the village, everyone comes and chats about the day’s catch and mends their fishing nets. This piazza like space is very unusual in Japan. There is a quiet but vibrant life, not like most local towns in Japan where the center is just an intersection. A woman who used to run a shop that faced the quay passed by and we chatted… I don’t remember what we talked about. This happens to be the city center but it is also the quay, the public life and fishing life overlap on this small island.


On the island there are 2 inns, one is just for sleeping and the other one provides 2 meals (of course all from today’s catch) for 6000 yen (60 usd). They will make accommodation for you after you call for a reservation. A spontaneous visit may provide nothing.


There are no policemen here. So the main boulevard becomes a woodworking shop. What is wrong to have a party even in the daytime? Anyway there are no cars nor even bicycles in the island. I captured a couple of happy men at the corner of the angle, pretending I am taking a picture of the house beside of them.


How many islands like this are there in Japan? It is quietly isolated in the ocean. A half day is probably enough to explore this tiny island, but I want to come back and stay overnight. Time will flow differently here.


When we are leaving the island, a fisherman handed a bunch of beautiful lobsters to the architect, apologizing that normally he can get bigger ones. There is a blow of the steam whistle from the boat. We must go…. A couple, the only tourists today were on the edge of the island on the other side of the bay. They understood immediately what was happening and started a “once in a lifetime” dash. Our boat saw them and returned to the quay. The couple’s hearts were bursting…. I hope not.



Scientific Literacy 科学文盲率

Two months ago, we talked about how restaurants in NYC are surviving in the pandemic by converting the parking lanes into dinning space for their restaurants. They had just started at that time, so the settings were rather primitive and raw.


Now they are getting fancy and permanent looking. The sidewalks have been taken over as dining areas. Pedestrians pass through the middle of the dinners. It reminds me of the streets in Europe…messy and vibrant. In fact, some parts are a bit too vibrant, they are too narrow for pedestrians to go through. You may get the virus from enthusiastic guests chatting at the tables.  One bonus is you get to see what they are eating- staring at their food is allowed.

それが今、しっかりとした、上等なものになって, 歩道がレストランに占拠されつつある。事実上、歩道はレストランの真ん中を走っている。なんだかヨーロッパのおしゃれな街で、にぎやかな雑踏の中か、カフェの前を歩いているような錯覚を覚える。実際、場所によるとイキが良すぎる。通り抜けるのに一苦労する狭さで、レストランの客からウィルスを貰うかもしれない。不幸中の幸いは、通常はレストランでどんな料理が出るのかわからなかったのが、今は良く見えること。

The biggest difference is the new roofs that have appeared. Guests need shelter when the weather is rainy or windy. Additionally, it is getting cooler now. We wonder how will they accept dinners in the winter, what will be the next layer? I understand it is the time for them to make money to maintain the business before winter. It also may be the time for us to show our tolerance … except when it comes to catching the virus.


There were several reports about people who refuse to wear masks saying that no one can force you to wear one. Probably they misunderstand that mask wearing is the same as wearing a bike helmet. If a traffic accident kills them without a helmet, it is their own responsibility, nobody gets hurt… except themselves. With the same reasoning they also may protest the obligation of wearing a seat belt. No authority has the power to force you. This is wrong, the mask is not just for you but also for someone in front of you. You may transfer the virus to someone because very often you don’t even know if you are already infected or not. The mask is not the same as a helmet or seat belt!


This inconvenient fact has been informed to everyone so often and so widely. It is a mystery that some people have not read it? or they don’t trust any information from outside? But do they have any alternative counter theory that they can support scientifically? Did they investigate their own counter theory carefully? In fact, it is a foundation of science to doubt any authority, but you need to create a plausible counter idea and study it with a critical manner if you think the authority is wrong. You need to have the capacity to welcome a disliked theory and have the ability to examine it. You cannot just blindly dismiss. This is another foundation of science.


Although, the authorities may need to reconsider how to inform everyone. The social distance varies with wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity, in shade or not and the strength of speech, so it cannot be simply 6ft, obviously. They might have underestimated the ability of the general public to consider this judging it is too complicated for them. In some cases 6ft is too much, and vise versa.There was no explanations how 6 ft was derived, no information that the size of droplet carrying virus is 1/1000 -1/100 millimeter and typical fiber mesh of mask is about 5/1000 millimeter ( sorry for imperial system users), it is like “believe me blindly”. But you have internet and if you think a little bit, you will understand that you don’t need to go down into the car lane to avoid me walking 20 ft in front of you (this actually happened often). Can people think scientifically, or the authorities’ underestimation is correct? It is a hard question to answer, but obviously the virus carried on the air cannot propagate with the speed of light.

しかし、当局側にも非があるかもしれない。ウィルスを移されない距離は風の向きや、強さ、気温、湿度、日陰かそうでないか、話者の発音の強さによって変わるはずで、6フィート一律ではありえない。当局は、そんな複雑なことを言ってもわからないだろうと、人々の考える力を過小評価している。これらの条件しだいで、もっと近くでも安全だし、その反対もあろう。ウィルスの大きさがどのくらいで、マスクの繊維の径がどのくらいなのかも、6 フィート がどのようにして導き出されたのかも、とこにも説明はなかった。まるで、とにかく鵜呑みにせよと言っているみたいではないか。しかしインターネットはあるんだし、少し考えてみれば、20フィートも前から、近づく私を避けて、車道に降りる必要もない(これは実際に時々起こる)。人々は本当に考える力がないのか?それとも当局の過小評価が間違っているのか?答えつらい問いだが、しかし明らかに、空気に乗っているウィルスは光の速度で伝播できない。

Ford Foundation Open Houseフォード財団の公開

At this years New York Open House, a yearly event to see and experience New York buildings, Sandy was volunteering at the Ford Foundation building near the United Nations. The garden and their gallery are open to the public but many people did not know and took advantage of this time to visit.  Many people came.


The volunteer’s role is to guide visitors and to explain the architecture. This opportunity to visit other areas was a courtesy provided by the Ford Foundation.  Not all areas of the building were open but we as volunteers received a quick tour through the upper levels overlooking the garden  showing us their goals and their activity. The foundation’s goal is to improve social justice and they are happy to remind the public of their mission.


My first reaction was simply “ wow!” and “ how lucky we are we can see the inside!” and “how lucky they are!”, they can work everyday in this gorgeous working environment….


Then my next reaction was a question “why is this so gorgeous?”  The construction cost would have been exceptionally high, and the use of this footprint in this expensive city is extremely generous…. There is not so much floor area, commercial buildings could never afford it unless this spaciousness and richness of finish created more business, like banks or art museums.  Banks need to show that they are safe and profitable. Art museums need to  show their art collection is authentic and a ”must see” they need to entertain art lovers with their space. Unlike banks and museums one of our clients doing research to fight a serious disease wants to spend the majority of their donations for their facilities and equipment and some money for decent spaces for their staff. How much do we value space and luxurious finishes? It is all relative.


When we left the building, I was in a strange mood, a mixture of  happiness because of the experience and our good luck and at the same time, unhappiness, why can’t everyone have this environment? Don’t we all deserve this quality of working environment? Can other not-for-profit organizations like ” Doctors Without  Borders” which have noble missions have this office as their headquarters?


I have no answer … but, yes, all office spaces ”should ” have this quality.


Bike Tourism, Shikoku Henro 四国自転車ツーリズム 遍路道


The river ahead and the city road beyond. この先は川があり、その先は市道

Today we are bicycling further inland following the pilgrimage route of the Shikoku 88 Temples. Most of the original ancient routes are developed with wide modern paved roads except for the very tiny paths in the mountains. Sidewalks can be used as bike lanes as no one is walking these day, but actually the sidewalks are not continuous so we had to cross the traffic constantly switching from one side to the other. Some parts of the old roads remain and the main traffic doesn’t use them anymore, but they are very short, interrupted by the new roads and you never have a really relaxed ride.



A rural road in between the mountain and the river. 山と川に挟まれた田んぼ道

If you ride a parallel route, for instance on the opposite shore of a river which is on the main route, you can have fairly nice travel. These photos are a good explanation…. We found that this side of the river is much quieter and has much less traffic. These narrow streets are almost like dedicated bike lanes as only local people use these meandering roads which discourage fast driving and actually are not needed by the local people. Very few bridges join this area to the other side. Why don’t we publish a map that carefully connects these local routes and call it a continuous “ bike route”? There must be a lot of similar locations like this.


This cul-de-sac road ends at the mountain. 反対側、山があって行き止まり




We are now in a village. Unfortunately this potential bike route hits a heavily trafficked car route. There is a temple in this village “Byodo-ji” the 22nd of the 88 temples. Traffic passes just in front of it. It is very quiet for someone who came from a city but you cannot be totally relaxed. A parking lot is provided by the temple.

村の中に入ってきた。「自転車散策道」は残念ながら 村の中に入いる地点で車の行き交う道路と合流する。この村には四国巡礼88寺の一つがあって、門前は車がよく通る。都会から来れば十分閑散としているが、それでも車への注意は欠かせない。お遍路に駐車場さえ用意されている。


Byodo-ji main hall. This unsophisticated garden is not like in Kyoto but is very charming. 22番札所 平等寺本堂 この洗練されていない庭がいかにも四国らしくて良い。

To follow our original path back would not be boring but it would be daunting, it would be a long distance and there is a tough hill in between. If we can take a train from this village it would be great for our tired legs but our bikes do not fold and we have no covers which are both required by the railway company, even in an empty car.  It does not make sense, no one would be annoyed, and it helps maintain the passenger deficit by excluding cyclists. This rule is a inheritance of the golden age when trains were always packed. The weather is getting dark. Let’s take a quick visit to the main building and have a panoramic glance at the village, and trace our way back.




orange: this trip, yellow: last trip オレンジ:今回の旅、黄:前回の旅

Bike Tourism in Shikoku 四国自転車ツーリズム

between fishing villages 漁村から漁村へ

Every country is having difficulty to maintain their train system outside of the big cities. Cars came to the world just over 100 years ago, and quickly became something we cannot imagine being without. Google map ignores railway lines. In North America cars dictate the materialistic world and also the spiritual world—-world view, someone criticized it as Ford-ism. Train systems in the countryside are becoming extinct.


In such a global situation, a new idea for train systems is emerging, updating the old idea of trains being just transportation from one point to another, it is now entertainment with train rides introducing beautiful views and interesting towns. This reminds me of the cross continental trains or ocean cruises. Those tickets sell  out quickly. If this is effective even in the country side, local lines may be reactivated. Nowadays the local routes are losing passengers and therefore service and as a consequence they lose more passengers…


Today, we are 20km from Tokushima  and about 100km from Muroto. There was a cyclist on the bank of the beach. He was wearing racing gear on a super light bicycle equipped with GPS. He takes a bicycle tour every weekend and typically rides about 200km. He says some bike routes are well separated from car traffic like the one we are on but mainly he shares the road with cars. We are amazed with his passion as  touring with vehicle traffic cannot be pleasant. If he can skip heavy traffic in and around the city by bringing his bike on the train, his tour would be fabulous. He also could have a much longer bike ride.


What if we can launch cycling tourism? Many more people would visit the country side by easily carrying  their bikes onto the train.  You can get off at a station and get back on again from a different station, even a different line. This would be a long day but a real trip. Actually we do this with the New York city subway. The direction of travel is always opposite to the rush hour commuters, particularly on the weekends when the subway is not crowded.


The other thing we can do is to organize routes which are safe and have fewer interactions with car traffic. A dedicated bike path is ideal. The route can zig-zag, it is not the shortest ride, but we can enjoy the beautiful scenery and simply ride; visiting towns and villages. The shoulder of the road can be widened and defined as a bikeway. Sidewalks may be shared with bikes if pedestrian use is them very rarely.


Because it is not easy to get to the local towns it means that an undeveloped simple environment is still there. Once it is developed for tourism assuming car access it will bring more traffic and end up with wider roads and bring more traffic.  This bad circulation will threaten the quiet environment which was the charm of that location. On the contrary, train tourism preserves the environment but requires a sustainable number of passengers. Some weekend-cyclists carry their bikes in their car to reach areas outside the city, but they have to come back to the car. It is not a bike tour. They have to go through heavy traffic again to come back on Sunday evening. If bicycle and train travel are combined, more people can easily access many places keeping the environment and culture there and along the way. In order to do this, trains and platforms need to be easily accessed. Not only professional cyclists but recreational cyclists like us can easily travel very far, even on the way home from work. The current health boom may spur bike tourism. What about touring to the 88 Temples of Shikoku by bicycle…..


ALLKBA at Glick Park グリック公園

In our neighborhood there are public parks and streets which need flowers and trees, but the ground is so dry and hard – it has been left forgotten for so many years. KBNA is a not for profit organization that takes care of the flowers and plants at Glick Park and also the tree pits near the park that are part of the bicycle lane system.


One of the activities our group supported was posted in this blog, we proposed a service roadway to become a real public amenity, street cafes , seating a kids play area and an event space where local musicians can mingle with residents.  The streets should become more lively and active, unfortunately our proposal was  denied by people who live in the adjacent property. It should have benefited them but they were not convinced.






Our targets are any kind of park/garden and streets which will contribute to making urban living better and enhance community life. 私たちの活動の目的は、どんな公園でも構わず、地域コミュニティーを活性化して、より良い生活の助けになるようにすること。




One of them is this ….. park, with it’s fantastic view of the East River, a full panorama although the park is not well recognized . We want to make this park more beautiful and popular. Today we planted flowers and shrubs  and our next task is to keep them watered.


The neighbors who believe this park will make the community better got together to take care of the garden. They came from many different backgrounds. An Estonian who  recently arrived noted that the medical system is terrible here, a Chinese family and so on. What made them to come to join this activity? Look at their kids full of curiosity and having fun. Their contribution is so great. Why not more kids? Why not more adults?


They came from many different backgrounds—-old migrants and new immigrants. An Estonian who recently arrived is working hard complaining that the medical system is terrible here. What made them to come to join this activity? Look at their kids full of curiosity and having fun. Their contribution is so great. Why not more kids? Why not more adults?.




Hudson River Greenway ハドソン川自転車専用道

Several months ago five people were killed on the Hudson river green way, by a van that intentionally ran them down. We use the green way every week to commute to a project site, it’s a separated lane for bicyclists removed from the traffic and makes a great way to travel. Right after the murders every opening to the road was protected with concrete barricades for the full 10 km to prevent cars from invading into the green way pedestrian/bike lane. They are installed along the lane but the edges are painted with a florescent color to prevent bikers from running into them. We thought they were ugly because they disturb the smooth flow of bikes and are not appropriate for a “green” way running along the adjacent Hudson River Park.


These barricades oddly enough reminded me of  the train design of the British railway. The trains are yelling “watch out! I am not going to stop! never”  and the barricade is yelling ” watch out, I will never move”. The subjects are different but they share the orange nose and liner form along the direction of movement.  Additionally the barricade looks to have something like couplers. This maybe a good example of a theory in Bio-morphology—–a similar function builds a similar form even if they are not related at all.



Well, lets come back from this derailing….. what is the advantage of  installing this barricade here in reality?  This bike lane just happened to be picked. The attack could happen anywhere in New York, any street, any side walk… any place. The city would be packed with these British trains to protect pedestrians and bikes and paralyze the traffic. The city cannot just be silent, they had to do something. Luckily they could do something on this bike lane because of it’s unusual design… there is a bank and a planted border between the motor vehicle lanes and the bike route. Norma almost every sidewalk in New York has direct access to the road to allow drop off to the side walk, access to driveways, fire hydrants, and for deliveries and loading docks, and parking which is the basic assumption of urban design. That is why you never find low plants like in the image below.


side walk

Right: the Brooklyn Central Library, our proposal for a new canopy and fore garden for the theater entrance. Left: existing condition. Low plants between cars and pedestrians would give the entrance a welcoming focal point. This does not seem to happen here even though the sidewalk has this ample width. 右図はブルックリン中央図書館の劇場入り口の提案から。キャノピーと前庭のデザインを含む。左図は現状。これほど歩道が広いのだから右図のように車道との間に植栽帯を置きたかったのだけれど、NYではできないらしい。そうすれば入り口付近が際立って、「ようこそ!」の感じが出せたのだが…。


Here the planting and permanent barricades which would never allow cars to go into the bike lane. Installing British trains just at the openings  of the lane works very well. Speculatively the main purpose is to tranquilize and ease people’s psychology. After considering I guess that may be the practical function of this British train.

A few years ago in Tokyo bombs exploded that were hidden in garbage bins in public spaces. Immediately all of the garbage bins disappeared from public spaces. When the fear that this might happen again faded they all came back. There is no guarantee this will happen again, and I ( irresponsibly) hope these British trains will return home someday when the fear is gone.



Community Board コミュニティーボード

The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio invited all of the Community Board members ( and their spouses ) to an annual reception held at his official residence to express his appreciation for their contribution to the city and enhance the communication between members. The party was held in a temporary tent built in the garden close to the building- Gracie Mansion.

ニューヨーク市長 ビル デ ブラジオがコミュニティーボードのメンバー(とその伴侶)を彼の公邸宿舎に呼んで毎年、レセプションを開いている。メンバーをねぎらうことと、メンバー間のコミュニケーションが活発になるようにという趣旨。グレイシーマンションと呼ばれる建物の横、庭園のなかに大きなテントが建てられて、立席パーティーが催される。

Representatives of the 59 community boards from the 5 boroughs of New York City were there. Even New Yorker’s don’t know that the community boards exist… probably. The community boards are appointed advisory groups from the community districts, each board is composed of up to 50 volunteer members appointed by the local borough president with half from nominations by City Council members and they have no official authority to make or enforce laws. They advise on land use and zoning, participate in the city budget process, and address service delivery in their district. We came to last year’s party so we hung around near the kitchen; the best area for hors d’oeuvres. Tasty food carried by the waiters was quickly intercepted before reaching the other end of the tent.


We heard the mayor was somewhere in the tent and that we had the opportunity to have our picture taken with him and his wife. With 50 members on each board, public members, district managers, etc. that is over 3,000 potential photos for the mayor and the first lady…although it was split over 2 nights. We did not have a strong incentive to have a photo taken (we are not very photogenic) but we decided to see what was going on and report to this blog. We took our place in the line that extended behind a curtain. The mayor and his crew were there working hard…. this was a mass production photo shoot-conveyor belt style ….it must have been an exhausting job for them. He and the first lady ( in deep pink ) had been making instantaneous smiles for a couple of hours with not only there friendly faces, but also his kindly expression and approachable body language (but hurting his back ). We understand that this job is just one of the essential tasks for politicians that makes their position special. It must be a hard work!! Look at the entire collection from our evening’s photo shoot at the header. What a grueling part of public life- they manage to look pleasant in every photo!


It is not fair if you think the Community Board is just a hobby because they are not paid. Multiple meetings are held, 9 time a month , not like meetings among elected officials held during the daytime, these meetings are held at night. Most members have their own day job. Even if you leave work at 5, you have to rush to meet their schedule, and if your are not lucky enough to have a 9 to 5 job, you start your meeting without any evening meal. It is really hard work to debate for a few hours without food after a long day of work. What makes them volunteer for this ? Some kind of honor or power? Even though this position is not well known among the citizens of NY? Or is there some kind of benefit? It may be common among politicians, even if you don’t have any power? Does not seem reasonable. There are probably different motivations….. to preserve the existing conditions? Or on the other hand, to change the world? Simply to be involved in the process of democracy? Or they want to speak? All of these may coexist in one person or maybe one incentive is major and other may be minor.



As far as I know only New York City has this system. In New York there has been a history of having power concentrated in one authority;  a single man Robert Moses changed the urban landscape and traffic infrastructure drastically including the highway network, which could be good or bad. The creation of Community Boards may be the precious heritage from the history of democracy.  They have no power but can bring up the community opinions to the city administration. It sounds like an attempt to reconcile the advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy and the delegate system. Community Boards though are not just an organization to create wish lists. They are required to organize and conclude their opinions through exchanging ideas through debate. Some may want to hold the “microphone” forever and steal the time for others to speak. Being given only a limited time in this busy era, you may need to be patient to preserve the chance for others. You may need to have consideration to make sure that the quiet speakers also get the attention they deserve beside the violent, yelling tones. Democracy definitely demands your time and patience.



NY Open House ニューヨークオープンハウス

Today I was stationed at the new sanitation garage in the east village for Open House New York. I have volunteered for several years for this event which is held every fall. Based on a model that was developed in London 25 years ago, Open House has spread to 35 countries and is a wonderful opportunity to see monuments, hard to get into spaces, architects studios or private homes. All types of buildings are opened up to the public for one weekend.


The tours were led by the architects of the building and the sanitation department- it turns out that the sanitation department was the one who wanted to join the event. This department deals with a much misunderstood part of our city life, the services they provide are invaluable but no one wants a sanitation garage in their neighborhood. They are trying to inform the public of how important their role is. This garage happens to be a pretty wonderful building, it is certified as LEED gold (Leading in Energy and Environmental Design), has fantastic views of the Hudson River for the workers, fits into the scale of the neighborhood with an intricate dynamic facade and also happens to houses garbage trucks.


Many people came to hear about the garbage; what happens to it and how do we deal with it.  But architects also came to check out the design of the building….. Why louvers? The building is mainly a huge truck garage but in fact looks like a museum.


A huge monument building made of concrete houses the salt storage. It is one of the most interesting parts- the salt is stored at just the right angle to have it tumble into the trucks, this wonderful mountain is very corrosive and many special precautions were needed.


There was a real fascination with the trucks and never before had the garbage men been the stars of an event.


Dag’s Cafe @Hammarskjold ハマーショルド公園のカフェ

P1060737c.jpgWe posted about the green market at Dag Hammarskjold Park  which is held every Wednesday. The park has many events and is the go to place for such activities as learning how to ride a bicycle, playing catch, enjoying a park bench or relaxing at the cafe. The Japan Society faces the park as shown in a photo below and one year they organized a Noh performance in the park. Quite often  protests are organized here because it is located close to the United Nations, it was the starting point of the New York City Women’s march.

前にダグハマーショルド公園で毎水曜に開かれる 青空市  の事をここに取り上げた。公園では自転車講習、子供たちの鬼ごっこ、カフェでのんびりなどなど、いろんなことに使われる。写真で分かるようにジャパンソサイアティーが面しているので、何年か前に創立を祝って、薪能の公演があった。前に載せた 反トランプのマーチもここが出発点だった。国連の斜向かいにあるので、抗議集会が頻繁に行われる。


Typically, though, the park is a lovely quiet oasis in midtown Manhattan. At the UN side a cafe provides a seating place for tourists and neighbors. The south side of the park is a garden dedicated  to Catherine Hepburn who lived in the neighborhood commemorating her commitment to the park.



The park is part of the city system but this garden is maintained by volunteers, Friends of Dag Hammarskjold (FDHP) . They do planting, weeding, maintaining the fences and anything else required. Today, chef Kenneth who manages the cafe “Dag’s Patio Cafe” generously cooked up an impromptu buffet of delicious green market dishes and the FDHP board members and garden volunteers were invited.  The summer feast was made entirely from fresh produce from the market. With white table cloth, and chilled wine our table was set under the trees and our chef brought out dish after dish of summer fare.

公園は市に維持管理されているけれど、庭園はボランティア、 「ダグ・ハマーショルドのフレンド達」によってメンテされている。彼らは植物の植え込み、草抜き、フェンスのメンテ、何でもする。今日、このカフェのシェフが気前よく即席のブッフェを企画して、青空市で売られる有機野菜を使った料理を「フレンド達」にふるまうことになった。涼しい木陰にテーブルが置かれ、白いテーブルクロスの上には冷えたワイン…。


The volunteers are a diverse group of neighbors who share a love of the park and are happy to have a bit of dirt that they can work with in New York City. They  became members because they love gardens and plants or want to meet people or are exited to do something for the public… but for sure no one expected this fiesta will be offered. Today’s guests are just a small portion of the Friends, but the chief had no idea how many would come, so served many, many dishes. Fantastic, delicious- we ate too much…

「フレンド」はこの近所に住むいろいろな人からなっている。メンバーになった動機は、土いじりが好き、植物が好き、いろんな人に会える、公共のために何かしたい…などなど。でもこのような御馳走でねぎらわれることは誰にも予想できなかった。今日ここにいる人々は「フレンド」の一部に過ぎず、シェフは何人来るか見当がつかなかったので、何十皿もの料理が用意されていた。素晴らしくおいしいのだが…何とも量が… 食べ過ぎた。

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.


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.


City Greenery 都市の緑


These photos were taken last weekend when we were invited to a roof terrace on a high-rise in Manhattan. You can see a lot of roofs that are utilized as terraces in Manhattan when you use the Google satellite view but pedestrians cannot find these roof terraces they are so high up. They are privately owned or they are shared roof space for the building dwellers. Even so this amazing roof top environment is quit rare. Luckily at one time there was a zoning requirement that buildings step back to allow light down to the street level, and many exterior roof areas were created. That is not the case today, but on the older buildings you can see the overflowing greenery.




Do so many roof gardens mean that New Yorker’s love plant life and nature so much?  Central Park and the many planted public squares are not enough? Moreover, New York also has many green courts and back gardens in the rear of the buildings. Actually they are invisible from streets and the hidden courts quite often have surprisingly large trees living there.


green belt on the left hand is a street, right hand is rear part of lots. the zoning code generates this clear continuous rear garden applied the same way to every building.左側の緑のベルトは通りの街路樹。右側は住宅の裏庭。建物を境界線から一定距離して建てる法規なので、各戸の裏庭が寄り集まって、意図せずに大きなベルトになる。

The green belt on the top is the street, on the bottom is the rear portion of the lots. The zoning code generates this continuous rear garden for every building. 上側の緑のベルトは通りの街路樹。下側は住宅の裏庭。建物を境界線から一定距離して建てる法規なので、各戸の裏庭が寄り集まって、意図せずに大きなベルトになる。


The space beyond the property line is visible from the street as this is a cemetery. 建物の代わりに墓地になっているので、ここでも隣との境界の付近の空間がよく見える。

Quite often the small streets in Manhattan are covered with a canopy of large trees, which almost form a tunnel. People living on the streets seem to love this atmosphere, none asks to trim them. After the Sandy storm a lot of trees were torn down and blocked the street, but not a single tree was thinned to reduce the future damage from falling trees and branches. They seem to understand it is common sense that humans need an environment with trees and plants to make the city more livable and desirable to inhabit. In Tokyo they know that greenery can create a better atmosphere but they do not often use their roof spaces or plant large trees on the street. Why? Is it because the people of New York have a fantasy or nostalgia for the European landscape that does not exist in Tokyo?



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。