Japan, Sayonara and See You Again

Like waking from a dream, it takes awhile to remember all that had happened in your time away. After coming home, and getting settled back into the once familiar pace of life, my time in Japan is coming back to me. What a Leap to take! I can hardly believe it happened. Of the many adventures had over the past four months, I just wanted to touch on a few things I might have left out. Brace yourself, I left out quite a bit.

Kiseki no Hoshi has provided me with an unparalleled sense of how horticulture and art can be married to create something entirely new. Here are just a few more shots from the garden.

During a wonderful trip into the heart of the Hyogo Prefecture, in which I was generously hosted by Shigeto Tsukie and his family for the weekend, I was taken to one of the most surreal landscapes I have ever witnessed. The Tonomine Highlands are perched at the top of the longest, windiest road I could have imagined. In quite a remote part of Japan, Tonomine was once land used to graze horses, and its grasses, a type of Miscanthus, were harvested for use as thatching material.

In great contrast, I shortly after found myself in Tokyo, an intimidating prospect at first, but quite a rewarding and eventful experience. From bustling fish markets, back alley restaurants, bonsai villages and the Russian ballet, to Imperial gardens and simply mad contemporary art, Tokyo was treasure trove.

Despite many, many wrong turns, I managed to find most of the things I had hoped to see, and even happened upon some lovely things by accident. One of my favorite finds was the garden of Mukōjima-Hyakkaen, the former estate of a wealthy merchant and the only surviving Edo Period flower garden in Japan, designed to be in bloom through all four seasons. I thought this was quite an interesting concept for a Japanese garden, in which form and texture typically prevails, and was something I saw as Western ideology. I was nonetheless smitten. Not simply a pleasure garden for the aristocracy, but a space for celebrations and friends and guests of all sorts. It projected a very new image for me, one in contrast to the thoughtful gardens of meditation that had preceded it.

Back to the countryside, I took great pleasure in looking a bit deeper into life on Awaji Island. My colleague and friend, Misho Owaka, showed me a side of Japan I believe to be very special, a side I don’t believe many people get the chance to see. From Artyama, the home and studio of Kakuya Oishi and his wife, to a small community center and playground. There was no flash, no signage or interpretation, I took my tourist shoes off and was just a person, a part of the community. At least that is what it felt like, and I feel fortunate to have had, and will never forget, that feeling.

There are, upon reflection, two surprises in such extensive traveling. The first being how dramatically different things can be, and often are; from the food, to the customs, to the landscape and the general aesthetic. The second being how familiar it all feels in just a few months, it will always be different of course, but you come to see all the little things are the same, and it is beautiful. One day, with luck, I will return.

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My last sunset on Awaji. Many thanks for all those that made it a home.

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