Saturday, April 16, 2011

Aoyama Tree

This isn't a hike because it was mostly over street or sidewalk, and under three miles. It just ties in with the previous post, about Huell Howser's Visiting episode that I saw last night. So, the Aoyama tree today, and Franklin Canyon, soon!

Parked south of Second, between Main and Los Angeles. But I don't know the streets of downtown well enough to always take the most direct route. I ended up going east on Second to San Pedro, then north to First, then west to Main, to 100 Main Street, which has the Caltrans District 7 building on the southeast corner, and the new police building (that replaced Parker Center) on the southwest corner.

It's kind of funny that these public buildings are built with more style than the private buildings. The Caltrans building has appeared in more than a few car commercials, while the Police building looks way too pretty to house a detention center.

Even the older public buildings had some stylistic heft to them. There's famous, art deco city hall, after all. Although many buildings in L.A. are now far taller than city hall, most of those buildings have been kept well to the south and west of city hall, so the old lady still stands out clearly once you get in the close enough. It looked nice from 100 S. Main, that's for sure.

And here's the police building, on the other side of Main Street.

After my test, I headed east on First Street, in search of the giant Aoyama Tree mentioned by Huell Howser. I sort of recognized from the Visiting episode that the tree was adjacent to the MOCA building that is now called the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. For a number of years, it was called the Temporary Contemporary, but I guess once they decided this annex to MOCA was going to be a permanent fixture, it needed a more permanent name.

This means when you get to the tree, you go east on First to Central, then walk north, along the walkway that would be Central if Central continued north of First. This puts you between the Japanese American National Museum (on your right) and the old Buddhist Temple that houses the JANM offices (on your left).

It's a big tree, alright. Probably 60 feet tall. (Although a story posted on credits it with a "mere" 50 feet, it seems clear to me the tree is now closer to 60 feet. It's twice the height of the two-story old Buddhist Temple and adjacent buildings, and your typical rule of thumb is 15" per story. It definitely seems taller than the "up to 100 feet" height of the redwoods I saw on my visit to Carbon Canyon Regional Park. That's probably because this tree is so broad; it occupies a lot more space than the young redwoods of Carbon Canyon.

The tree in context is picture at the top of this post. Here's a closer look at its leaves. The decorative figs are clearly visible, and I like the geometric patterns carved by the leaves.

On Google's satellite view, you can see the outline of the tree just north of the old Buddhist temple, with its shadow cast to the north-northwest.

There are no plaques or indication that this tree, a Moreton Bay fig, is an historic-cultural landmark.

Adjacent to the tree (besides the Buddhist temple, to the south) is a parking lot on the west and a walkway on the east and north. To the northeast is a semi-covered area that serves as an outdoor exhibit space for the Geffen at MOCA. Today, a graffiti-covered bus appears to the the main attraction there.

This set up is a little unfortunate, because this means the combination of the tree, the bus, and the covering structure pretty much shield the Go for Broke memorial from view. If you don't know it is behind all this stuff, you'd never see it.

The Go for Broke Memorial is in recognition of the thousands of persons of Japanese ancestry who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, even as many had their families detained in "relocation camps" because of their race.

After viewing the tree and the memorial and being pretty hungry, I decided to eat at Senor Fish, a restaurant at the corner of Alameda and First. Seen it many times, but never ate there before. Food was okay, but (like seemingly all food in this area) kind of pricey.

The dining room offered a nice view across Alameda. The Gold Line was in the fore-ground, the MTA tower was further back, and Mt. Wilson and the San Gabriel Mountains was beyond that.

After lunch, I headed back up First, then walked through Little Tokyo Village before heading back up Second Street to my car.

My best guess is about 1 1/2 miles of walking, total. It was too hot to do a more proper downtown walking tour, which I keep thinking I should do again but haven't gotten around to it.

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