Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

003 : Andrew Douglas at the Tropical Greenhouse, Koto-ku
Born 1977 in Australia, Andrew Douglas currently works as a JET teacher/writer. He came to Japan on a JET visa. Why Japan? Why Not?! He digs the following Tokyo bits: Bright lights, fashion, and jo odagiri. He, however, is a touch miffed by no nighttime transport. For more info on Andrew Douglas you should send an email or visit ilbonito.

image: A. Douglas

“The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.”

I first glimpsed Yumenoshima out of a train window, on the way to Chiba. Just before the gleaming spires and faux volcano of Disneyland pop into view on the right, there is a stretch of green, broken only by the distant glint of a glass dome beside a pyramid-like structure and an extraordinarily tall chimney.

Yumenoshima [1], which literally means “Dream Island,” is where Tokyo buried its excess trash in the 1980s. Rubbish was pumped onto the sea floor and covered with soil, grass and trees. Then a bunch of sports complexes, a pool, a tropical greenhouse and a garbage treatment facility were built here.

I visited on a perfect autumn day. The sun was shining. No one was there. A strange stillness hung over the park. There were no birds singing, no children playing, just fields of shrubby orange flowers rustling in the wind, scraggly palm trees, and yachts bobbing up and down on the harbor. There was a distinct smell of eucalyptus in the air. [2] I felt like I was all alone in a slowly suffocating part of the world.

Above it all loomed a huge candy-striped industrial chimney pumping its emissions into the air.

I headed in, down a pebbly path, looking for the thing that had drawn me here in the first place. It wasn’t hard to find. The shining glass dome stood by the sea. It was a surprisingly large greenhouse attached to a garbage incinerator. Through the greenhouse’s misted panes, I could see palm trees, looking more lush than their forlorn cousins outside), ferns and orchids, a waterfall and other strange tropical plants.

I bought a ticket and went inside. The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.

Inside was a dusty painting of a jungle with two monkeys nestled in the grass by Henri Rousseau hanging over a table of orchids. How appropriate, I thought. Rousseau had never left France [3]. This painting rekindled a feeling that had been nagging at me during my whole visit to Tokyo. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it represented, but somehow, Rousseau’s imaginary jungle seemed very appropriate in this greenhouse on a pile of rubbish called “Dream Island.”

referenced works

  1. Yume no Shima Koen (Dream Island Park) - Japan Visitor Blog report
  2. Strange no mention of the homeless, of which there are a considerable number living -- and often sunbathing -- in this park.
  3. Tropical Forest with monkeys (1910): Henri Rousseau never visited a tropical rain forest. He created his scenes from pictures he saw in books and on trips to the botanical gardens and zoo in Paris, where he lived.

location information

  • Name: the Tropical Greenhouse
  • Address: Koto-ku, Yumenoshima 3-2
  • Time of story: early morning
  • Latitude: 35.650734
  • Longitude: 139.828784
  • Map: Google Maps


019She laughed at my effort and responded in English, ‘Long time, no seduction.’ — Qi Rari

018In my dreamy state, oblivious to signs and announcements I often boarded the wrong train.— Momus (aka Nick Currie)

017I was fifteen years old and it was one of those nights.— Yuko Enomoto

016That ear of corn just wanted to go home— Guttersnipe Das

015With his painstakingly coiffured mane blowing in the wind— Digits Wolfowitz

014Her voice, even across languages, betraying her worry.— Olly Denton

013I saw them drawing bamboo sticks from a silver rectangular box.— Daphné Haour

012A simulacrum of someone else's home, equal parts comfort and loss.— Adam Greenfield

011Jumbled Escheresque insanity where geo­graphy in any traditional sense ceases to exist.— Joseph Badtke-Berkow

010I could hardly make out anything apart from his glowing eyes...— Uleshka

009Shibuya was like a stroke.— Alice.d

008I cried for a while and wiped the dead bracken off my karate pants.— David Cady

007Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I calculate the remaining distance to the station.— Chris Tobber

006I once read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound by a cruel man …— Claire Tanaka

005The Bad Girl strutted off and I was left with a ham egg pie.— Guttersnipe Das

004I arrived expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki.— Ashley Rawlings

003The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.— Andrew Douglas

002Flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of yakitori in the air.— Jean Snow

001For two weeks the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine.— Joseph Squier


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