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Gardening, So to Speak

May 23rd, 2011


It’s not much of a garden, even by Japanese standards, but it’s what we’ve got and it’s there. It’s a patch of dirt which measures 22 feet by 6 feet along the south side of the house, and despite there being a house just inches beyond it, it still gets a respectable amount of sunlight–quite a bit in the summer, in fact. So we wanted to do something with it, make it much more presentable.

When we got the house, it was loose dirt, but after a few rains, became somewhat more caked, and moss and weeds started growing. It would likely soon become a wild mini-weed-field soon enough. Our plan was to add planters and stepping bricks, and then fill the rest with garden stones. The stones are often used in Japan as a security feature–someone prowling around outside will make themselves known by the crunching sounds.

In any case, after scouting a few materials, Sachi sketched out an idea and I took it to InDesign and made a basic layout:


We went to a “Home Center,” the type of store in japan that specializes in this kind of stuff (like a “Home Depot,” I suppose), and found the exact stuff we wanted. We got some Goldcrest conifer shrubs and flower bushes, some low, curved brick enclosures, bricks to use as stepping stones, and a truckload of 10kg bags of the landscaping stones. We needed at least 50 bags of the stones; they were a bit less than ¥300 each. The materials arrived in the middle of the week, and have been sitting there waiting for us since then.


We set aside Saturday to do the work, and fortunately, it was nice weather, if a bit hot. First, we placed the faux-brick enclosures. Since the ground had dried unevenly, I had to dig up the dirt (which smelled uncomfortably like fish parts) and level it out before we could place them.


Next, we placed the stepping bricks as we wanted them to be, but they also sat unevenly, so it was back to churning up and the flattening out the dirt beneath them as well.





Then we were ready to lay out the stones; Sachi opened the bags, and I took them in and spread them out over the area.


We had just about enough for the minimum, but could probably use more–maybe another 20 bags to make the stones deeper where we’d like, and a few more bags to fill in the narrow dirt area on the other side, at least near the front.

When we finished, it looked pretty nice.


Later, I got a view from overhead (after it started to rain and the stones took on more color), and stitched together a few photos to see how close we came to the plan I made at the beginning:



Eventually Sachi wants to get a wire arch for the entryway (at left in the above diagram/image) which will have rosebushes growing over it. Should look nice! Now all we have to do is keep the plants alive…

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  1. Troy
    May 23rd, 2011 at 10:01 | #1

    No wanchan in the future?

    Just think, you paid a year’s NCB salary for that patch of dirt : )

    Tooling around western Tokyo in Google’s aerial view it’s fun seeing how 畑 were built up into communities — we forget that 50 or 100 years ago this was just dirt! Lots of big money made by those old landowners parcelling out their daikon fields into high-rise mansions and apatos.

    Residential land in Tokyo basically peaks at ~Y3M per m2 in the tony areas and falls to 1/10th that out by Nishi Tokyo, and continues to decline the further you go.

    The most expensive land in Los Altos tops out at $1000/m2 or thereabouts . . .

    The reason land is so expensive in Tokyo is due to the rock-bottom interest rates, much higher allowed density, lower property taxes, and also the fact that domestic prices are still predicated at the Y150/USD exchange rate.

  2. ken sensei
    May 24th, 2011 at 12:44 | #2

    You definitely look like a happy homemaker, Luis.
    It must feel strangely awkward to be able to stick a shovel into the dirt, knowing it’s YOUR dirt, and no landlord can complain about it.

    I agree it makes sense to use rocks to prevent prowlers. But if were my backyard, I would make the most of it, e.g., plant some lawn or even vegetables there. I like eating fresh tomatoes from my own garden, but that’s just me.

    Do you have space in the back for a couple lawnchairs? Those and a small charcoal hibachi bbq would really make it feel like home.

    Keep the photos coming…

  3. Troy
    May 25th, 2011 at 00:43 | #3

    heh, this space is just wide enough to do anything in . . . even put a hot tub in the back in a gazebo. . .

    problem is that it’s not a backyard but a sideyard . . . Luis will have to figure out how to increase the privacy from the street.

    back in the 1980s I had a friend whose family had a very nice wooden deck, bbq, and redwood patio furniture assemblage in a rather small backyard space.

    But this is groundcover in the “toriaezu” (good enough for now) sense. Enough to keep the weeds away . . . . looks like Luis could built a wood deck right over this (just above the concrete step block of the side entrance) but that’s a lot of money for somewhat questionable utility.

    It would take $30,000 or so to really make the investment that would make this space private & usable enough on a regular basis . . . plus this would add more stuff to maintain.

    Plus the weather in Tokyo doesn’t really cooperate that well for these outdoor entertainment spaces . . . too cold in the winter and too muggy in the summer. . .

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