A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to go and spend a week working in Kyoto of a company called ‘Saito Landscape Company’. I stayed in a hotel near to the company’s head quarters and was picked up every morning for work by my friend and colleague Koichi Takada.
Saito Landscape headquarters was situated quite far out from the centre of Kyoto, which meant one thing, a commute to work through the centre of Kyoto every. A distance that should only really take 15minutes on occasions took close to an hour.
Once we made it to the imperial palace to start work we met up with our other work colleagues, Atushi Harada, Reona Tometa and Mori naga san. We got to work straight away setting up tarpaulins under the pine trees and erecting the Japanese ladders, with only three feet they are perfect for getting right in amongst the trees.It wasn’t long before I was right up in the top of the tree getting to grips with the slightly different style of pruning the gardeners in Kyoto operate.
An absolute delight came when we went in for our lunch, I had been told that lunch was going to be provided, and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of food that was wrapped inside a denim cloth, there was a large bowl of rice on the side. It was just what the doctor ordered and was devoured soon after this photo was taken.
We moved onto one of the small islands that made up the garden at the Imperial Palace to tend to three slightly smaller pine trees, this was quite a novel way of getting across to the trees without getting our feet wet.
The pruning technique differed to that we had learnt from Hori-san, the main aim of the pruning was to try and achieve Sukashi, which literally translates to see through. The tree does not want to be ‘dark’ or ‘heavy’ with foliage, another thing to look out for while pruning was what the boys called ‘Tobi’, which is new growth coming from the tree and growing straight upwards. The aim is to always maintain the shape of the tree as much as possible.
One afternoon I was taken on a tour of the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the buildings were spectacular and the gardens even more so. (although I was asked to keep photos of the Emperor’s personal garden to myself)
I was also lucky enough to be given a guided tour around the Sento Imperial Palace (Omiya Gosho). Just as spectacular as Kyoto Gosho…..
My friends and colleagues invited me out one evening to experience a very popular type of cuisine in Kyoto known as yakitori. I would describe as my kind of food, all different types of skewered chicken, including not only chicken breast and thigh, but heart, liver and muscle to. I had a really enjoyable evening meeting and spending time with new ‘brothers’ Shigeru Kimura and Takeshi Tarui aswell as my friends from work Koichi Takada and Reona Tometa.
Koichi was kind enough to give me some wonderful gifts to remind me of my time working with Saito. He gave me three amazing presents first of which a traditional Japanese head towel called Tenugui, which I wore with pride throughout the week. He also gave me what he called ‘Tekou’ which is what I would describe as gauntlets, very handy for stopping debris etc falling down your sleeves when your pruning up in a tree. By the end of the week my white ‘Tenugui’ was looking a little worse for wear so Koichi was kind enough to give me another.
Not forgetting a lovely gift from Tometa-san of chocolate chip finger rolls. In his words Tometa recommend, and what a fine recommendation it was.
The final evening before heading home, Rhiannon joined me in Kyoto for a Ikebana class, which was very interesting. We tried our hand at freestyle Ikebana. I think it’s safe to say it will take me a little more practice before I master this wonderful art form.
By the end of the week I felt I had made genuine new friends and I was sad to leave my post at Saito Landscape company.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful experience its was amazing! ha