When you imagine modern Tokyo, what comes to mind?
Shibuya and Shinjuku electronic billboards?
A robot hotel?
A 97-square-foot micro-apartment?
Documentary by Bernardo Guerrini Naturopolis – Tokyo, from megalopolis to garden city describes Tokyo as “a giant city, a city that never stops growing:”
She destroyed his natural spaces. It created its own weather. It’s too big for its own good. They say that Tokyo is like an amoeba that swallows everything in its path.
It is far from the urban space of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, who intended to plant the seeds for Edo, as Tokyo was originally called.
Like the above extract from Naturopolis explains that the 16th century city was innovative in incorporating greenery.
The daimyo, or military lords, were required by the shogunate to keep their residences in Edo. Each of these houses was equipped with a gardener and gardener to preserve its beauty al fresco areas.
Meanwhile, crops were grown in all the common outdoor areas with irrigation canals supplying the necessary water for rice cultivation.
These plant-rich environments provided a hospitable environment for both wild and domestic animals. Carefully manicured natural zones encouraged quiet contemplation of the flora and fauna, giving rise to seasonal celebrations and rituals that are still observed throughout Japan.
Whether admiring flowers and fireflies in the spring and summer, or fall foliage and snowy winter scenes in the colder months, the people of Edo worshiped the natural world outside their doorsteps.
Bashō did the same in his haiku; Utagawa Hiroshige in his series of ukiyo-e prints, A hundred famous views of Edo.
Somewhat less poetically celebrated was the importance of the night soil to this biodynamic, pre-industrial shogunate capital. As environmental writer Eisuke Ishikawa delicately notes Japan in the Edo period – an ecologically conscious society:
Once upon a time, when excrement was a rare fertilizer, it naturally belonged to whoever produced it. Farmers bought excrement for cash or exchanged it for a comparable amount of vegetables. Fertilizer shortages were a chronic problem during the Edo period. As the standard of living in the cities improved, the surrounding villages needed more and more fertilizers…
(Anyone who shoulders the surprisingly heavy interactive—not THAT interactive—night soil buckets on display at Tokyo’s Edo Museum will get a sense of just how much of this essential element each block of the capital produced on a daily basis.)
The Meiji Restoration of 1868 brought many changes—a new government, a new name for Edo, and a race toward Western-style industrialization. Many parks and gardens were destroyed as Tokyo rapidly expanded beyond the original Edo footprint.
But now the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is looking to its past to combat the effects of climate change with a push for environmental sustainability.
The goal is net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, with 2030 as a benchmark.
In addition to holding the business, financial and energy sectors to environmentally friendly standards, the Zero Emissions Plan seeks to address the quality of life of the average citizen with a literal return to more green spaces:
Accelerating action on climate change is important to preserve biodiversity and continue to reap its rewards. In recent years, the idea of green infrastructure, which uses the functions of the natural environment, has attracted attention. It is one of the most important aspects of the future: achieving both biodiversity conservation and climate change action.
A UN report* pointed out that COVID-19 is a potentially zoonotic disease originating from wild animals, such infectious diseases will increase in the future, and one of the reasons is the destruction of nature by humans.
Read the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Zero Transmission Strategy and Update here.
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– Ayun Halliday is the chief primatologist East Village Incas zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and A creative, not famous, activity book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.