Non-Intentional Design: Investigating alterations of space/objects at the public/private boundary in suburban Tokyo, Japan. A resource by Contact: Chris Berthelsen

Memorial Asagao

Quick notes from memory-infused morning glories

Mr. Kushimoto in Shibuya gives us an early morning lesson in memory-infused gardening (see Personal Impact of Urban Green Space) en-route to breakfast at Knee High Media Japan.

His very ordinary plot of asagao (Morning Glory) links him to his Noh teacher who received the seeds as a gift but had no space to grow them in his tiny apartment and passed them on to Kushimoto. This Noh teacher lives next-door, in an apartment building that was once part of the Kushimoto family estate (now broken up into quarters, and soon to be fragmented further – see e.g. Schematic of scattered land ownership over time in a typical Japanese village).

Mr. Kushimoto used to have a garden that spanned the front of his home, but when his brother turned his inheritance into an income-producing parking lot dirt became scarce – the compromise being the deep concrete planter leading up to the entrance to Kushimoto’s property. This planter proved a more productive spot than the shallow and junky infill soil of the original plot (see last photo).

Now, Mr. Kushimoto lives on the 1st floor of his two-storey house (son and family on 2nd floor) and limits his gardening to decorative asagao, irises and roses – he informs us he has no need for home-grown vegetables because he never learned to cook and his wife passed away a couple of years ago (her name is, however, forever etched on the mailbox plate).

The asagao blooms in the morning, withers by afternoon and goes to seed soon after (a process very lovingly described by Kushimoto) (see second to last photo). I love the mix of intergenerational property metamorphosis, spousal memorial, ongoing teacher-student friendship and loyalty, long-term attention to soil quality and daily change brought out in this simple early morning encounter.

(Originally posted on

Memorial Garden in Neighbourhood Park

This well tended local neighbourhood park garden is actually a quiet memorial to a deceased spouse.

Chatting with the lady who was working on the garden (planting tulips) I learned that she was carrying on the work of her husband, who had passed away the year before. He had worked in some area of the city agriculture/environmental works department and had shared his love and knowledge of plants and gardening over the years of marriage.

His volunteer work maintaining this patch in a local park had been his gift to the neighbourhood.

Memorial Garden in Neighbourhood Park
Memorial Garden in Neighbourhood Park
Memorial Garden in Neighbourhood Park

Location: Akishima, Tokyo

(Originally posted on Tokyo-DIY-Gardening)

Shrine Collage

A personal shrine in the backyard of a Nakano residence constructed in a collage of breeze blocks, wood, polystyrene and more.
Materials: Breeze Blocks, Wood, Polystyrene
Location: Nakano-Ku, Tokyo

Mega-Cities: Design Anthropology and Urban Landscapes
I'm delighted and honoured to have my FIXES work included in Jared Braiterman's Tokyo University graduate seminar on mega-cities.
You can download the syllabus [HERE]

Thanks to the URBAN DESIGN Lab 西村・北沢・窪田 都市デザイン研究室, Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo for making this a featured resource of their lab [LINK]

Vision Plus 2010
Thanks to the organizers of the conference for selecting this project as a featured resource, even though I was not able to attend.

Article: Small Places of Anarchy in the City: Three Investigations in Tokyo on This Big City

Article: The Non-Intentional Landscape of Tokyo - read at This Big City

Article: Framework for Neighbourhood Creative Climate - read at This Big City

Tokyo Green Space from Jared Braiterman is a great inspiration [LINK]

Urban Bricolage by @ehooge is an inspiring site on a related theme [LINK]

Treepolis by Christoph Rupprecht inspires me with investigations into informal green space, cities, and urban ecology with a focus on Australia and Japan [LINK]

Everyday Structures by @alanwiig is another fine site in the same vein [LINK]