Sometimes, I miss Japan. My interest in Japanese gardens pre-dates my obsession with bonsai, so I enjoy sharing information about places well worth visiting if you head to the Far East. For those of you considering a program to study bonsai at the Fujikawa International School, keep in mind your potential proximity to the epicenter of Japanese culture.
Last Fall, the entire Kouka-en team went on a trip to the Adachi Musuem located in the town of Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture. It is rare to get away from the bonsai garden; especially everyone at that time of year. This place is essentially in the middle of no-where, so a dedicated day trip must be planned. In this case, a few of us expressed interest in seeing Adachi to our Oyakata a few years ago. Many of the posts I’ve written about non-bonsai centric cultural sites are here for anyone to utilize when visiting Japan. There’s so much to experience and each place affects you in different ways.
The most striking feature of Adachi is the modern Japanese garden that isn’t overtly influenced by Buddhism or Shinto. It is a monument to form with tightly pruned karikomi azalea and some of the best pine niwaki around.
Gardeners here have to work on the pine art forms year-round to keep everything tidy. “Tidy” would be an understatement. Meticulously maintained would be a better description.
The indoor parts of the facility have massive windows in places to feature vistas and elsewhere, small windows to focus your view.
Every detail is accounted for.
In a Japanese garden dictionary, the word “shakkei” could easily have a photo of Adachi next to it. While this concept was likely first incorporated in Chinese landscape paintings, many gardens in Kyoto (and elsewhere) incorporate borrowed scenery. Like most Japanese gardens, Adachi is really not that big. However, every cubic centimeter of space is used to maximum effect.
In contrast to the modern garden, there is a more traditional garden which is divided by a very clever tokanoma with a view of the modern side acting as a “scroll”. The people blocking my shot at the bottom add to the contemporary feel.
The “old school” part of Adachi is a blend of the slightly wild style reminiscent of the approach to Nanzen-ji with a little karesansui thrown in just to show off. The dry landscape garden sets the tone for a more formal experience in the tea garden and house on the other side of the wall.
In Japan, food, and the ritual of consuming it, are of paramount importance. The cafe inside the museum is nice and the views from any seat are choice. My Sempai Bjorn Bjorholm enjoying a Folgers moment with Naoki Maeoka (my other Sempai) and Yuri Hayama.
David Moreno Martinez and Dario Mader are two other apprentices at Kouka-en. I look forward to their contributions to the bonsai community in the future. Below is a view from the cafe that floats above the stream and pond.
Our Oyakata, Keichi Fujikawa, and David Moreno Martinez appreciating the view through one of the picture frame windows.
A gallery of my favorite photos from the trip can be seen below.
The museum also has a large collection of contemporary paintings and a two story permanent ceramic gallery. As with most gardens in Japan, I’d visit during the Spring for the azaleas or any time in Fall. Well worth a day trip any time though. There are buses that will take you to Adachi, but a car would be advisable if you’re doing the art or spa tours and want to visit some of the other regional sites. There are flights in from Tokyo as well. If you drive, you can see Mt. Karasugasen on a clear day. Transportation
After five months of non-stop work on the road, it’s about time to style some bonsai at home. To all the organizations, conference organizers, and private collection owners, thank you for your support. Owen Reich