Suzuki Makoto

Launching new Japanese Gardens Outside Japan website for Nodai

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海外の日本庭園についての新しいサイトが立ち上げになりました。このサイトには、アフリカからロシアまで、何百もの日本庭園が紹介されています。サイトのスポンサーは著名な専門家である東京農業大学の鈴木誠教授です。日本庭園は生きた芸術作品であるため、地域社会との継続した様々なサポートが必要です。きれいなサイトデザインとロゴは、イアン・リナムさん(Ian Lynam)のおかげです。よろしくお願いいたします!

I am very pleased to announce a new website that provides scholarly and general public information about the hundreds of Japanese gardens outside Japan. This project puts online the database of Tokyo University of Agriculture’s Professor Makoto SUZUKI, the world’s expert on this unique Japanese cultural export. There are Japanese gardens in six continents, in conditions ranging from arid Australia to urban Brazil. I hope that my blog readers may have the opportunity to visit one of these living art works near where they live or travel.

A special thanks to the incomparably talented Ian Lynam, who created the visual design and the logo for the new Center for International Japanese Garden Studies.

nodai_garden_brooklyn_botanic_B Nodai_CIJGS_logo_t

Conference paper on Kanda River, biodiversity and new urbanism in Tokyo

This past weekend was the International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress in Suzhou, China. My co-author Matthew Puntigam traveled there with professors and graduate students of the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and he presented our paper co-written with Professor Suzuki Makoto.

The Kanda River connects many residential, commercial, and downtown neighborhoods before emptying into the Sumida River. We looked at the past, present and possible future of what is the longest river that originates within Tokyo. The biodiversity potential is significant: in one small section of Tokyo’s Kanda river, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s 2001 survey documented 260 plant species, 42 riverbed species, 9 types of fish, 291 types of insects, 30 bird species, 2 reptiles species, and 3 mammal species.

You can download a PDF of our paper, Biodiversity and New Urbanism in Tokyo: The Role of the Kanda River (6 MB). Your comments and questions are most welcome.

東京新聞が「Tokyo Green Space」について書いてくれました

東京新聞が「Tokyo Green Space」について書いてくれました。十二月七日に日立で行ったプレゼンテーションのことに関してです。

Tokyo Shimbun wrote about Tokyo Green Space. The article is about my presentation conducted on December 7 at Hitachi’s headquarters.

Edo gardening in wood block prints

Edo gardening in wood block prints

Encouraged by my host Suzuki Makoto sensei at Tokyo University of Agriculture, I recently visited the Edo Gardening Flowers exhibit being held at the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art until November 26,2009. The exhibit has spectacular colorful wood block prints showing flowers and plants in a variety of urban settings including kimonos, at festivals, commercials nurseries, educational materials, Kabuki actors, and Noh dramas.

The exhibit theme is that the Edo period experienced a “gardening culture” in which a passion for gardens and flowers permeated all social classes, including court nobles, shoguns, feudal lords and the common people. According to the catalogue, “the Japanese people’s passion to flowers surprised the American botanist Robert Fortune as seen in his diary upon his visit to Japan in the late Edo period.”

An interesting comparison is also made between between the widespread practice of Edo gardening and also the interest of common people in wood block prints. It is wonderful to see the use of flowers and plants in both high culture realms and in depictions of everyday life during the Edo period.

Two of my favorite prints are collections of plants used by children to learn the names of flowers. The one below, from the back cover of the exhibit catalog, has the names in hiragana. The exhibit also includes Edo era ceramic plant pots.

Edo gardening in wood block prints

Some more images after the jump, and also a list of plants seen in the wood block prints.

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Firefly habitat in Okayama

Firefly habitat in Okayama

During an October visit to Okayama, a friend stumbled upon an amazing firefly habitat in Nishigawa park, a small canal with a lovely walking path cutting through the center of the city. Although now hatching below water, as the sign above shows, it was amazing to see how a city creats an urban habitat for fireflies. And it reminds me of Professor Suzuki Makoto’s firefly project in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

Okayama firefly habitat

The firefly habitat occupies one long block of the Nishigawa park, which has different walkways, seating areas and plant arrangements on each block. For fireflies, there is a small slow-flowing, side canal where the fireflies hatch on the opposite side of the wood bridge from the main canal. A huge wall of vegetation provides nocturnal darkness and protection.

Firefly habitat in Okayama

I am curious how long the park has been around, and what it is like during summer firefly season.

More on Nishigawa park after the jump.

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Metropolis article on Tokyo Green Space

Metropolis magazine article on Tokyo Green Space

Metropolis magazine in Japan published my article on Tokyo Green Space. It’s my first general interest article on some of the amazing green space innovators I have met during my research in Tokyo: including Ginza rice farmers and bee keepers, a modern bonsai Continue reading

Operation Flower, crime prevention in Suginami

Suginami Operation Flower

A friend in San Francisco sent me this Reuters news story about a municipal government program in Suginami ward to plant flowers facing the street as a crime prevention measure. The article cites a city official saying, “The best way to prevent crime is to have more people on the lookout.” According to city officials, encouraging street flowers has lowered burglaries by 80% from 2002 to 2008. Read the full article.

Update: Suzuki-sensei at Nodai kindly provided me with the Yomiuri news story from June 6, 2009 which provides more detail. Apparently, before turning to flowers, the Suginami ward government tried security cameras, which worked but only for a short period. The local government than did a survey that found that only 2 of the 100 homes that experienced robbery had plants outside. Suginami achieved this remarkable crime reduction by spending 6,000,000 yen (about $65,000) per year on plants, and organizing 109 “Flower Blooming Troops” (花咲かせ隊)  groups with 872 residents participating. The effectiveness is attributed to the plants bringing more people into small alleys and to neighbors interacting more with eachother.

Governments from Shizuoka, Okinawa, Fukuoka and seventeen other Japanese prefectures have visited Suginami to study this crime success. It is also interesting that this news story spread to the China Daily, Brunei Times, Australia’s ABC, Times of India, and the Iran Daily.

Yomiuri article on Suginami Operation Flower

A tour of Koishikawa Korakuen with Suzuki Sensei

Professor Suzuki Makoto at Koishikawa Korakuen

I had the great pleasure to view Koishikawa Korakuen with Professor Suzuki Makoto of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Along with Hama Rikyu in Tokyo, and Rokuonji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Jishoji Temple (Silver Pavilion), and Daigoji in Kyoto, this garden is one of five gardens in Japan that have been designated as both special historical site and special scenic spot under the Cultural Assets Preservation Act in 1952.

Koishikawa Korakuen Lone Pine

Professor Suzuki was leading a class of foreign students in Environment and Landscape in Japan, and I was very impressed by his deep knowledge and careful attention for his students. Exhorting his students to “use their imagination” and “listen to the birds,” Suzuki sensei organized the walking tour from Inner Garden to Outer Garden, and pointed out where the daimiyo’s house and three quarters of the original estate had been replaced by the massive sports and entertainment complex called Tokyo Dome.

Suzuki Sensei’s tour highlighted three key aspects of the Japanese Garden: 

1. A plethora of historic and literary allusions. Begun in 1629, Koishikawa Korakuen was completed by the second lord Mitsukuni of the Mito Tokugawa family with the guidance of Shu Shunsui, a Confucian scholar and refugee from China. The name Koraku, “meaning “delight afterwards,” comes from a Chinese text in Hanchuen’s “Gakuyoro-ki.” Specific sections in the garden evoke the Chinese Rozan mountain and Lake Saiko, and the Oikawa River in Kyoto.

2. Miniaturizations and variety.  The garden’s twisting paths and changes in elevation allow the visitor to experience miniaturizations of built and natural environments including a castle moat, Confucian full moon bridge, Kyoto’s Togetsukyo bridge and Kiyomizu Temple, a shrine, and an Edo-era drinking house. In roughly 70,000 square meters, one also experiences forest, mountain, river, lake, rice field, and plum orchard. Large stones in the path, which Suzuki Sensei called “articulation stones,” signal the shift from one landscape to another.

3. All of Japan in one compact space. Suzuki sensei displayed his own illustration of how Koishikawa Korakuen embodies the archetype of Japan’s island landscape, which goes from ocean to pine forest to hills and mountains. 

I feel very fortunate that Suzuki Sensei has agreed to be the host for my Council on Foreign Relations Hitachi fellowship.

Professor Suzuki Makoto at Koishikawa Korakuen