Sorakuen Gardens Kobe – Learning from Hori-san

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to go and spend 4 days working at Sorakuen Gardens in Kobe, our colleague and mentor for our time there was Hori-san, a man with an absolute fountain of knowledge when it came to traditional Japanese techniques, tools and history.

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Amazing bark of Pinus strobus (white pine) – almost looks like camouflage.

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Otoko musubi (man knot)

We started off the week by constructing a bamboo fence to partition the boundaries between two areas of the garden, hori-san showed us how to tie a traditional ‘Otoko musubi’ or man knot.  It took me a little while to master, but I managed it eventually.

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The pictures above show the fence through stages, the bamboo posts had to be cut to exactly 1 metre and were lined up using a string line attached to the top of the cedar posts seen in the picture.  Once the posts were tied in place any final adjustments were made and then everything was bound together using a Kaizuru knot (vine knot). Once this knot was wound around every post it was near on impossible to budge any of the posts and the whole fence became very rigid.

Before

Before

After

After

Our next task was to learn the traditional way to prune Pine (one of the most important trees in Japan).  At first we spent some time practising indoors, the material we were using was from a pine tree that hadn’t been pruned for two years so was in real need of attention.

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Once we (and Hori-san) felt confident enough in our skills he let us out into the garden to try our hand at pruning the real deal. These trees had already been pruned this year so there was nowhere near as much pruning to be done.

Jikatabi

Jikatabi

There was only one choice of shoe for the job of climbing up into trees easily, and that’s the traditional Japanese Jikatabi.  Very comfy to wear lightweight but quite difficult to get on in the morning.

A pruning saw designed especially for cutting bamboo with small teeth.

A pruning saw designed especially for cutting bamboo with small teeth (Very good)

Hori-san had quite of traditional Japanese tools he quite proudly showed us.

Hori-san had quite of traditional Japanese tools he quite proudly showed us.

The next day rain was forecast so Hori-san planned for us to spend the morning indoors to teach us how to sharpen traditional Japanese tools including Japanese scissors, secateurs and pruning saws. It was amazing at just how simply Hori-san made everything look.

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Hori-san was kind enough to give us a number of gifts this one a section of bamboo which he had cleverly hand carved two maple leaves into, it looks amazing at night with a tea light inside.

And finally a picture of the man himself Hori-san, it was an absolute pleasure working with and learning from such a knowledgeable man, it was an experience I will never forget.  Arigatogozaimashita!

 

 

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