Guardian forests (鎮守の森) used to be found in every village in Japan but these days we seldom see them, where the village guardian God manifests. They are usually centered around a small shrine and is as close as possible a remnant of the original forest coverage of the area.
Guardian forests belonged to the village (or the other way around?) and when charcoal or timber products were harvested it was only supposed to be used for religious festivals or in maintaining shrine buildings.
They also performed eco services: as forests were cut back to make room for fields Guardian Forests were important "safe islands" for pollinators, beneficial insects, bees etc. and a roosting place for birds that preyed on pests like rodents, grasshoppers etc. Better harvests!
Many small ones remain inside cities, surrounded by streets and buildings on all sides they can be tricky to spot. Some are large, like the Tadasu-no-mori in Kyoto, which has been left more or less untouched for the last 2000 years. 124,000m², but it used to be much larger.
Maybe the most famous Guardian Forest in Japan is the Meiji Shrine Forest, 101 years old, a rare example of a new planting.
Another famous example might be found in the film My Neighbor Totoro. I do not know if Totoro is a god or not but I think the spot where he lives could be an old Guardian Forest.
I think modernity and greed did a number on Japan's tens of thousands of Guardian Forests. Today so little remain untouched, but the worst is over. People today appreciate and value these remnant forest islands like never before.

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More from @wrathofgnon

2 May
The majestic woven huts of the Dorze people in southern Ethiopia. When new the tallest of these reach up to twelve meters, made of a bamboo cage structure, thatched with local grass, bamboo or ensete (false banana) leaves. Well maintained a Dorze hut can easily last a century.
The older a Dorze home is, the lower it gets: the bamboo poles are attacked by termites and ground moisture, which is why maintenance often involves cutting off a couple of decimeters of the bamboo poles that touches the ground, every few years.
It would take a young couple about three months to build a hit for themselves, so often specialized craftsmen (who are trained in a master-apprentice sort of system are called in). As part of the payment, all meals are included. A clever trick to make sure workmen show up.
Read 6 tweets
23 Apr
All countries have their defining flowers, Dutch tulips, the English rose, for example. Today we associate Japan with the Cherry blossom, or maybe the Chrysanthemum, but for about 300 years, the Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) was a major player in Japanese agricultural-economy.
Once grown all over the country as a major cash crop, today it is only properly grown in the iconic Tachiya River valley in Yamagata prefecture, where locals liked to bring impressed Imperial and Shogunate officials to view the endless fields of orange flowers from the mountain.
The flower arrived in Japan via Korea, according to tradition, in 538 A.D. It had come a long way from its origin on the shores of the rive Nile in Egypt (it probably made its way via the silk route together with Roman Imperial glassware which has also been found in Japan).
Read 10 tweets
23 Apr
So how do we fix unsustainable cities and suburbs? How do we go back from the machine scale to the human scale? In the same way that a one-size-fits-all sort of lifestyle was imposed on our cities, there are going to be as many solutions as there are cities and developments...
...a combination of leading by example, studying the past while trying to put ourselves in the shoes of those coming after us. Both carrots and whips. There is no need to raze and rebuild, rather we should consolidate, and stop subsidizing that which can't be sustained.
Good cities are always built on the human scale, useful to anyone regardless of age or possession of a driver's license, and have access to sun and water to some degree. Apart from that they can differ, a city in Algeria will look and work differently from a city in Ecuador.
Read 8 tweets
20 Apr
Three myths of cars:
1. Without cars we can't get around.
It is because of all the space devoted to cars and car infrastructure that we need them to get around in the first place. Traditional cities are compact and usable by anyone on foot or wheel.
Three myths of cars:
2. It would take draconian rules to rid our cities of cars.
It is because of draconian rules that we can't build the kind of neighborhoods and cities where we don't need them: try going against your city zoning laws, building codes, traffic regulations etc.
3. We need cars for the large populations of cities.
Modern cities typically devote 55% of their surface space to parking, and less than 2-3% to homes and housing. Add traffic infrastructure to this and you end up with what we have now: cities built for cars.
Read 4 tweets
14 Apr
Beautiful 3D reconstruction of the acropolis of Pergamon, one of the largest cities of the ancient world. Building something of this size is one thing, but how did they supply a city built on top of a 350m tall mountain without springs in an arid climate?
The water infrastructure of Pergamon was a wonder of the ancient world. At first they used cisterns to store rainwater, but the city quickly outgrew what they could possible hope to harvest and store, so they dug deep wells, so deep they could only be used for emergencies...
In the 2nd century B.C. they built a system of clay pipes connecting a series of natural springs up to 25km away to two sediment basins 4km away from the acropolis, at a height of 376m. But the acropolis was separated from the reservoir by a deep valley. How to get water across?
Read 7 tweets
10 Apr
The 1912 old Yokohama Rubber Co. Hall is a gorgeous example of how to build to achieve comfort in sub-tropical climates without modern air conditioning: tall ceilings and windows and a large cupola ensures natural ventilation, the wrap around porch controls solar (over) heating. Image
All buildings are compromises, and with bearable winters and unbearable summers you build to see you through the summers. Indoor humidity is effectively controlled by plaster and wooden surfaces throughout over a breathable timber frame. ImageImage
The company wanted to tear it down in 2003 but a public and official outcry stopped the destruction and it is now open to the public. Beauty literally saved it. Here are my own photos from today's visit. ImageImage
Read 4 tweets

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