Just up the street from the shopping street where I live, there is a junior high school that has been closed down for a while. I have been curious about what would become of this school and property as it is really close to where I live and it brings to mind possibilities of projects that have taken place in other schools that have closed around Tokyo. The declining population in Japan means that there just aren’t enough students to fill the schools and they close. It is a little sad, but it also presents the opportunity to open places such as 3331 Chiyoda and Freedom University (Jiyu Daigaku) in a city that still holds a huge population (just not many kids) and scarce land.
This past winter I went for a walk around my neighbourhood with a friend, scoping out fruit producing trees that are on public or public-ish land. We happened upon this beautiful hassaku tree (a kind of Japanese grapefruit/orange) that was just loaded with fruit. This particular tree is on the grounds of the school in a fenced in garden, complete with greenhouse, that has gone pretty wild with no one to care for it. We felt that these fruits were too beautiful to waste and so got in touch with the city office to see about getting access to go in and pick them. We had the plan all sorted out, but the March 11 earthquake altered our plans. A month and a half went by and those fruits were still hanging there, possibly going bad. Finally, last Monday, I gathered up some friends and arranged with the city office staff to let us in the gate. We showed up with tools and sacks and were led up onto the roof of the gym for the easiest access to the fruit. We made a great haul of three giant sacks, and the office staff also had fun picking and brought a couple bags back to the office with them. It was great fun and the fruits are delicious. It’s just a shame that we could only pick and carry about 40% of the fruit. I’ll be hosting some friends to try out hassaku meringue pie baking, as well as hopefully getting a small community event organized in my neighbourhood to make some marmalade with my neighbours.