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Well tended hedges

More than real estate size or manor's grandeur, or car brand in the garage, green hedges well tended are the sure sign of wealth, and a pleasure to walk by. Busy gardeners brush up the shrubs and trees in Afro hairstyles, and manicure the corners in lovely fashion.The new houses, all in faked substances that don't even try to mimick real, usually come without any garden even tiny. But the most lovely flowers are to be spotted on those pieces of fallow lands, on the margin of disheveled houses, on trees at times high in the sky that have been left on their own for many years.We spotted in the distance a single tree heavy with bright kumquat, and even more puzzling at this time of the year, well past crop season, bright yellows fruits, tiny yuzu left on a tree, ignored by humans and birds.
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Moored pleasure boats at Kanda river

A smattering of pink

No prime time for almond blossoms, mostly unknown in Japan. Lip service only for plums in bloom, in February, when it is still too crisp and cold outside to fully enjoy. Only cherry blossom, a maniac national concern, timely set into the true ushering in of Spring, is splashed into limelight. I like these more when at smattering pink level, scattered among other greens. Here set in Western Tokyo. Bloom in the quiet.

Spring. Western Tokyo Day Tour.

At the core, the Western Tokyo private day tour is a made-to-order only one day away from the city grind, away from the standard mass tourism city narratives, and even away from the official take on Western Tokyo. It invariably ends up with comments like "What a nice day we had!".In Spring, make your day. Inquire at contact@nextaroma.com.Look here.

... and the orange man came

The electric car kit

At Kuramae 4273, I am told that the young man who just left in orange repairman gear is behind this fully road licenced cart like electric vehicle. The regulars know each other, but as is so often the case, they don't know much about what each others are doing. I am left with the hypothesis that the orange repairman creator was into aircraft engineering or something similar and may be working on his own. Granted you don't ask and just leave yourself to the flow, bits of information and narratives are casually offered, that would be a boon if into journalism.Kuramae 4273 is messy, with a tendency for approximate business hours lately. Maybe this is adequate to a "creative garage" as they advertise. This messyness I like very much. On the mezzanine, there is a small exhibition named "CALIFORNIA DAYS", set in nostalgic pre-Silicon Valley days. A fiction as all those pictures with a good old golden days hue were shot in Los Angeles just two years ago. I have a …

Writing about urban Tokyo

Long before post-truth, there was propaganda. Same thing, different wording. Reading a recent promotional piece by the Japan National Tourist Organization on the Nihonbashi district, the historical center of Tokyo, I was puzzled, not surprised though, by the stubbornness to expose faked facts on an über-ugly district of this city. Not that JNTO should switch to silent mode, but rather that there is a better take at exposing a key chunk of downtown Tokyo that doesn't resonate at all with the uplifting effect urbanism can bring to the mind of the visitor.It is not a matter of being blasé as would lash out the professional bashers. All the contrary. This judgement is based on knowledge and experience, for when the uplifting factor is missing, there is at least in Nihonbashi spots to save the day, or the short hours to spend including lunch to have there. It is with the knowledge of those spots that you justify roaming through Nihonbashi, and have them spend, not for the sake of a fam…

Citan opening party

We went to Citan opening party but didn't stay much as the location was joyfully crowded, as announced, and spilling outside on the street of the very quiet, on a Sunday evening, Higashi-Nihonbashi district. Citan is the latest budget hostel of Backpackers' Japan, of which Nui. cited in a previous post, belongs to. This is a smart hostel business with growth ahead and a strategy at investing in somewhat off-centered districts a few stations away from the touristic spots, with a keen understanding, and a Japanese twist, about what global bacpackers and other international budget travelers are looking for.Convenience is key as we discovered, everybody being invited to visit the down to basics rooms set in a refurbished medium size office building. Warm wooden colors are limited to the first floor coffee stand and the basement bar & dining space featuring a lengthy stand only counter with some seats at the back swarmed this opening time with a youthful crowd. And as far as …

This lanscape is no more

You have to read Donald Richie's The Inland Sea published in the early 70s to be reminded with awes, and at times chuckles, of the freedom the travel writer was enjoying then. No assignment, no underpaid communication, no self-censorship attached to political and business correctness, no 40 millions visitors per year target, no cool or LOL, no generational reference to a "we", no selfies. Richie would blast with a smile at the "uglyfication" of Japan, as much as one would say "gentrification" these days.You may be shocked to read these lines from a trip design concern whose task is to mesmerize you with soothing wordings and perfectly pampered pictures. Designing trip is indeed weaving pearls of beauty and enjoyment together, that is, composing with the landscape. But the designer is powerless when the landscape veers toward the ugly. The powers who manipulate chance had me forget to bring the camera the other day, so no visual trace can be exposed he…

What happened to Bembo?

Bembo was the name of one among many lacquer ware companies in Okinawa churning out numbers of various pieces, both classical and contemporary, appreciated by the occupying Americans. The modern wares are especially haunting. They totally dissapeared except for a few samples kept at the Urasoe Art Museum. The glossy, bakelite like finish stands apart from the exquisite finish of lacquer wares on the mainland. How I wish to have this one.

Younger generations in Tokyo are (re)inventing the neighborhood café

My interest for urban third places in the form of contemporary cafés clearly started a few years ago in Manhattan. The location was called Play at 1 E 27th St, New York. It is still featured over Google Maps despite Play now being closed.It was near the end of January in freezing cold New York. Play, located near the hotel, was a chance encounter and a first experience at spending time in a space dominated by very loud music, large seats, good coffee and much younger people than me. It was a first experience into connected soothing loneliness. All these factors proved surprisingly conductive, despite the decibels, to good conditions for work over fast wifi, musing and do people watching.Back in Tokyo, I looked and found over the years my Plays, minus the decibels. This is not a Tokyo cafés review but a musing around third places in Tokyo.There is no need for an office when work is mostly collaboration requiring first of all efficient remote connexion. Working alone and meetings can b…