Garden Tourism Green City Japan

Green Tokyo. No more concrete jungle

green Tokyo

The idea of green city is getting more and more popular recently. I believe it’s a good trend, because urban areas are now home to 50 per cent of the world’s population. A concept of green city can be understood in many ways. Also, different cities have different green strategies to reach high environmental performance.  So can we talk about green Tokyo?


I absolutely love urban farming, so I was delighted to hear that Paris has just passed a law allowing citizens to plant basically everywhere in the city. It should not be surprising to anyone, as the concept of jardin partagé (community garden) is already well known to Parisians. Berlin is another great example of the green city. Of course there are places more and less green-friendly, but all around the world the general trend of greening the public spaces is definitely positive.

Why do I mention that in the first place? Because there’s still this a very unfavorable stereotype about Tokyo being a “concrete jungle”. Surely, during the postwar era of reconstruction and modernization of Japan, no one really thought about leaving the space for community green, but today’s Tokyo is far from that.

Fortunately the term “concrete jungle” doesn’t always have a negative meaning. Looking up for the different meanings of this term I found this nice definition:

Concrete jungle: A large urban city. Like a jungle, there is so much going on in large cities and so much depth to its high rises and train systems underground. Also like jungles, cities are loud and alive at night and something is always going on 24/7.

If we think of Tokyo in this perspective, hell yeah, let it be a concrete jungle. I absolutely love it!

green Tokyo
Tokyo panorama from Roppongi Hills observatory
green Tokyo
Shinobazu pond with lotus in Ueno district

Green Tokyo

Is Tokyo more concrete or more green? I would say it’s fifty-fifty.

green Tokyo
Tokyo panorama from Roppongi Hills observatory

Of course it depends in which area of this huge metropolis you are, but Japanese are perfect in fitting even the smallest gardens in the most unexpected places. And there are always some small plants in the pots even in the most urbanized areas.

green Tokyo
The neighborhood of Suidobashi Station
green Tokyo
The neighborhood of Suidobashi Station

Multi-level city

Tokyo is definitely a multi-level city. You will easily find some green spaces under the ground, as well as on the height of 3 or 5 floors above the street level. That makes planting possible on every level and basically in every dimension. I absolutely love this concept!

green Tokyo
Multi-level Shiodome neighborhood – the street
green Tokyo
Multi-level Shiodome neighborhood – stairs to the garden located one floor up
green Tokyo
Multi-level Shiodome neighborhood – “highest garden” (around 5 floor)

Shiodome “high garden” also looks nice during the night

When sightseeing in Tokyo, it’s always possible to find a green oasis to rest somewhere in the neighborhood. Some of them are very famous, like Yoygi park or Tokyo heritage gardens, but some of them are known only to people living nearby (and to lucky tourists using Google Maps when sightseeing). I’d like to show you both type of places, to make sure you get all shades of Tokyo’s green.

Green constructions

Green buildings can be found all around Tokyo. I’ve seen several ones in Roppongi, Azabu, and beside the Sumida river banks. Green buildings are not only beautiful, but also energy and environment-friendly (plants build a natural insulation of the buildings, absorb carbon dioxide and serves as a natural habitat to pollinators).

green Tokyo
Closer look at one of the “green walls” of a building in Sumida river neighborhoods

Pasona Urban Farm. One of the flagship projects of urban farming in the heart of Tokyo.

Tokyo Station’s neighborhood. I love the way the green is used by the modern urban architects. There’s no more boundary between human-made and nature-made. Marble and green grass seems to be a perfect composition. It’s neat, aesthetic and natural.

Beautiful all year round

No matter the season, city green always have something to offer. Moreover, it keeps you up to date with the nature’s year cycle. In Tokyo, you will find tropical evergreen trees growing along with the ones that loose their leaves seasonally. Also, quite often, due to the warm climate of Tokyo, some sakura trees accidentally starts blooming in winter season. Whenever I notice such winter flowers, I feel real joy, because I know that spring is just around the corner 🙂

Nippon Television Tower in Shiodome has a high (around 5 floor) garden with interesting benches…
Looks nice in the sunny, winter day.

Spring in the city means, above all, the festival of fragrances and colors of different types of flowers blooming one after another.

green Tokyo
Early spring on Odaiba

Japanese Summer in the tiny garden surrounding Tokyo Midtown – business and shopping center in the busy Roppongi district.

Tokyo turns red, when trees start to get Autumn foliage

Hanami in the city

Famous Japanese sakura viewing season is especially enjoyable in Tokyo. During hanami people get crazy about the cherry flowers. There are even a one-day trips to Tokyo best viewing spots organized by the travel agencies – the reservation for this trips usually starts long before the spring comes… Sakura are everywhere, as well as people who want to capture the best photos.

green Tokyo
Sakura street in Ebisu district
green Tokyo
Sakura road in Aoyama district
green Tokyo
Me dancing and fooling around with falling petals in one of Tokyo gardens
green Tokyo
Roppongi Hills – the Mori Garden

Green public utility spaces

Sometimes there’s a very little space for the city green. Fortunately “managing space shortage” is what Japanese already got used to and mastered long ago. Multi-level green Tokyo doesn’t bother about lack of space for its flowers. Why not – for example – let them hang down from the pergolas and create soft shadow over the bicycle parking?

green Tokyo
Bicycle parking covered with blooming wisteria in the Sumida river neighborhood

Sometimes you don’t create green to fit particular infrastructure. Sometimes the infrastructure is created for the green, like in this photo below. During the tulip blooming season the path cuts the flower field on half, allowing people to approach the flowers as close as possible.

green Tokyo
Tulips blooming around Diver City shopping mall on Odaiba
green Tokyo
Flowers growing in front of the public toilet in Tokyo

Abandoned green building in Ōji neighborhood. Ōji used to be very popular spot for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in the Edo era. Now it’s still famous for its huge park full of sakura trees, as well as many green spots for locals.

 

green Tokyo
Abandoned building in Ōji district

Famous parks and historical gardens

Tokyo has several big city parks, as well as many historical gardens. Nine most beautiful gardens creates Tokyo Cutural Heritage Gardens. Hama Rikyū Garden in Shiodome is one of them.

green Tokyo
Field of rapeseed blooming in early spring creates surreal contrast with the modern city architecture in the background

Hama Rikyū Garden. The way this field of rapeseed contrast with the skyscrapers in the background always astonishes me. It looks like someone took a part of wild countryside landscape and transplanted it directly to the heart of Tokyo. When I first saw it blooming at the beginning of March, I couldn’t believe my eyes. But yes, no photoshop involved. It’s real!

One of my favorite pocket city gardens in Tokyo is Hinokicho garden in Roppongi. 10 minutes on foot from my university. 2 minutes on foot from my church. How convenient 🙂

green Tokyo
Wisteria pergolas over the pathway turns short walk into long hours of flowers viewing
green Tokyo
In my secret pocket-garden in Roppongi

Shiodome neighborhood during Hydrangea blooming season

Many faces of green Tokyo

green Tokyo
Japanese buying plants to their tiny pot gardens
midtown
Childrens’ Day in Midtown park in Roppongi
green Tokyo
Random street in Suidobashi area
green Tokyo
Myōgadani Station’s neighborhood
green Tokyo
Green Tokyo Daibutsu temple
green Tokyo
Pot plants along the sidewalk (right side)
green Tokyo
Ueno. Between the park and the station
green Tokyo
Shinobazu pond in Ueno Park
green Tokyo
Tokyo from above (view from the Roppongi Hills observatory)
green Tokyo
Boulevard by the Konakigawa river

What I like about Japan and Japanese is that a community space doesn’t belong to no one. It belongs to everyone and everyone takes care about it. People do not destroy, pick or steal plants from the common places, as it happens from time to time in Warsaw. Although I’ve never seen anything like that myself, I heard about some old grandmas digging out flowers from street pots in the old town to plant them in their home gardens… Well, I just hope that the next generations will be wiser, when growing up in the city where green is a natural surrounding of human.

Izabela flower

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About

Z pochodzenia Sanoczanka, Japanofil, wolontariusz tęskniący za Afryką i etnograf-pasjonat. // Just a small town girl who always dreamed of travels and faraway places... Now Warsaw-based international relations analyst, travel blogger & folklore enthusiast, who cherishes nature, simple life & Irish traditional music. Japanophile. Addicted to haribo jellies & …red lipstick.

  1. So many great green spots in Tokyo especially during cherry blossom time. I think it is very important for every city to have some greenspace. And usually those are my favorite areas. Thanks so much for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Thank you for your comment Anisa! I also love green space in the city. And Tokyo is one of he greenest places I’ve lived in 🙂

  2. Alouise Dittrick

    I was in Tokyo for about a week this past March and I immediately noticed the potted plants and flowers around peoples homes and businesses. It’s great to see all the greenery added to the city.

  3. It’s really new point of view of Tokyo and pictures are very nice.
    Always I feel like gardens in or around buildings are so “artificial” and not natural.
    Nature is not a kind of thing you can control but sometime it looks like so…
    But I like people having greens and flowers in pots around their houses,especially on old, small streets.
    (I love your photoes of those potted plants beside houses)
    Those plants look like more wild and free to me.
    Sadly, those old districts are disappearing because of gentrification.
    Anyway, I find that Tokyo has more green spots than I have ever known, thanks of your article!
    I shoud walk slowly sometime and look around more.

    • Yes, that was a privilege of being a student – when I didn’t have a lot of classes, I could just spend whole day walking around Tokyo and enjoying its atmosphere 🙂

  4. Welcome back Ibazela! I love it when they built green spaces like these in big cities and that’s because I love living in a ‘concrete jungle.’ Many people would argue that green spaces don’t compare with the beauty of wilderness and I agree. But as much as I adore nature, living in a big city is like a breath of fresh air for me. Having a park or two around gives me the feeling I can enjoy nature and still have the conveniences of a metropolis. I’m sure the people of Tokyo appreciate these green spaces a lot. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Hi Anda! I would say I can live in a big city, or in the countryside. But the worst option for me is a small town – neither a city, nor a country, where you don’t have this pros of metropolis and you don’t live in wilderness at the same time. I think the best option is to live in the city and have a summer house somewhere in the woods, like Russians, Swedish and many other nations do have 🙂

  5. Looks amazing! I wish I could have so many green spots in Istanbul… Not only new skyscrapers and shopping malls 🙂

    • It has some green at least 🙂 I remember spending almost half day in Yıldız Parkı in Istanbul, great spot! 🙂

  6. I never been to Japan but always wanted to see the cherry blossoms 🙂 When I was a child (and teenager) I had karate lessons so Japan is always close to my heart.

    • When I was a teenager, I participated in Jujutsu trainings. I think it also has some influence on my interest in Japan 🙂

  7. Wow! This is awesome. I love how many green spots there are in Tokyo. I didn’t know this!

  8. Well… it doesn’t look so bad as I expected, especially those sidewalks and parks are quite refreshing. By the way narrwow alleys full of potted plants and vegetables… I’ve seen that in Beijing too – believe or not 😉

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