Over the New Year we headed down to Osaka to visit some good friends and do a little exploring. We'd gone last year for a few days before WWOOFing, so we didn't feel like we had much time in the city. This visit, though, we imposed on the good will of our friends for nearly five days (a jar of marmalade, some oregano from the garden with a few of our house salads thrown were given in exchange), and spent a great deal of time urban hiking.
Let's just say that I was utterly blown away. Osaka is full, full, FULL of everyday gardens. I daresay, and Tokyo Green Space may take umbrage with this, it may be greener than the nation's capital. I've never seen such a steady array of plants - potted, free range, and free range pots of edibles as well as ornamentals - anywhere, and that may also include Yanaka. One area's wide streets with low houses (usually no more than two stories) on either side were fronted by more plants than it seems should be legal. I don't know much about Osaka's history aside from the decimation of World War II, but there must be something afoot.
Such proliferation makes me think that Tokyo is not the only hub of such greenery. After all, I've spotted this sort of activity in Hokkaido, too. Clearly, it is somehow set in Japanese culture to just grow these things, to have them as a part of life regardless of the size of the space around a home or apartment. This doesn't include the array of bonsai 'forrests' - rows and rows of potted bonsai in front of a home or on a balcony - I've seen everywhere in Japan, either. While these are spectacular, they don't draw me in in quite the same way as the general mishmash of pots full of flowers, herbs, and the occasional vegetable do. There is something charismatic and charming to me about it all, and I'm simply in love. Such gardens have been, other than our neighborhood farms, my favorite surprise of all since arriving here.
Working in mostly chronological order, I'll start with the urban hike we took after visiting a small farmer's market sponsored by a local non-profit. As usual, we ventured off into the maze of streets with our iPhone as guide. We knew roughly where we were headed and the amount of time available before dinner. Turns out we walked roughly 12 kilometers that day with one longish break to warm up with coffee and a hot bowl of soup at a cafe. It was fantastic.