One of the things I like about Japan is the practical and efficient use of small spaces. This extends from inside the home to the outside world, where you’ll often come across small potted gardens lining the footpath or tucked into gutters outside houses and businesses. For me it’s one of the country’s defining features, not only for the care that’s taken with these mini gardens but also the fact they exist without fear of vandalism or theft.
Not long ago we had a fairly heavy, old terracotta pot and a mangy looking geranium stolen from a spot beside our front door.
Our townhouse is tucked away in a private complex with limited street access. Other people’s pot plants were also stolen suggesting someone deliberately drove in and loaded up their vehicle in the middle of the night. They were nothing special, but it was pretty annoying. This lack of respect for other people’s property, which we are somewhat resigned to in Australia, contrasts starkly with what I understand to be an inherent Japanese concern for the wellbeing of ‘the group’ over ‘the individual’.
This excellent article from 2008 explains more about the origins of the ‘flowerpot’ garden. In the concrete jungle that is Tokyo, they are a charming and important reminder to appreciate and look after the natural world that surrounds us.