In 2002 a group of young, concerned architects and editors from various fields came together to form The Tokyo Picnic Club (TPC). Using the form of the picnic as both a pleasurable activity and means of highlighting problems in Tokyo's urban green spaces, TPC organise regular picnic gatherings for its 70 plus members and undertake fieldwork and research into issues of Tokyo's public and green spaces. In 2003 they published a 'manifesto' called 'Picnic Rights', detailing the problems and restrictions surrounding public spaces in Tokyo and calling for greater access rights to various types of urban spaces.
They have highlighted two types of picnic sites in Tokyo - green fields and brown fields. Green fields point to parks and other mature green sites, whereas brown fields refer to ambiguous semi-green spaces in between hgh rise buildings or new urban development projects. Building regulations in Japan have recently specified that the more 'public' space is allocated in new building projects, the higher the buildings may rise - this is called kohkai kuuchi. An issue which TPC and others point out is the highly privatised nature of these so called 'public' spaces, which are essentially owned by building corporations or developers and thus also normally highly surveillanced and regulated. Roppongi Hills may be a good example of this kind of recent 'privatised public space'.
TPC's strategy revolves around highlighting public space issues in Tokyo via media-friendly picnic meetings of like-minded professionals. Their work has certainly made such issues accessible and fun to engage with, although a certain criticality may undeniably be lost in this process. But, as one of the few groups to creatively and actively engage with public space issues in Tokyo now, their activities deserve attention. Sandwich anyone?