Week in week out my life revolves around the ebb and flow of Eagleson Landscape Co. Creating beautiful landscapes, whether its large or small, makes being alive more than a crawl. Expansive redesigns or a simple maintenance regime, all landscaping has a place in making our community something unequivocally happy. However, it is important to take a step back and make sure what you do is also improving you. That was my goal when I went overseas to Japan. Not only did I get the opportunity to catch up with one of my greatest friends, my sister Katie, I was able to discover how another culture works, thrives and most importantly, how it landscapes! I want to take the next few blog posts to discuss a trip I took to Japan and what wintery landscaping I witnessed while abroad.
After fourteen hours of sitting, mind swimming, crazed by monotony, we arrived in Tokyo, Japan. As the language barrier came crashing down on me, my bubble of tranquil, oblivious bliss settled in around me. Nothing makes a person “escape” and a mind relax like turning off language; it’s a zen experience. The flight was, in all honesty, not that bad. They offered great meals (though pasta for breakfast was a bit strange), the movie selection was fine and no one sat in the seat next to us. However, it was a long flight, and being able to move my legs and finally use a real restroom was a magical experience. Walking through the airport with luggage, a very tired girlfriend and searching for our friendly face, I began to finally take my first steps away from work, wondering not about next week’s big project, but instead what Japan’s landscaping had in store for me.
Once we met up with Katie we made our way to Jujo, a suburb of Tokyo. This would be our home for two nights and my first chance to walk through a small piece of the Japanese landscape. It was dark by the time we arrived in Japan. Yet, what immediately struck me was just how little space there was. We truly take for granted the space we enjoy here in America. That’s not to say it isn’t comfortable in Japan, but from the streets down to the rooms, space is limited! Any sort of landscaping was typically found in potted arrangements on front porches. There was the rare home with about a 10-foot-by-2-foot planting bed, but it was not very frequent. This in turn means very little to maintain (everyone cheers) but very little greenery within parts of the city. There were shade trees on some of the major streets, but again these had to be cut back very hard to keep them from taking over. Greenery certainly isn’t lost on the Japanese; parks and other green spaces are just more concentrate and spotted around the city. Everything is seemingly around the corner so tree-filled drives or even just a lawn-filled suburban walk does not exist. I would have to wait until my second day to enjoy any sort of landscaping.
The next morning, pleasantly with zero jet lag, or at least enough adrenaline to not care, we set out for the Imperial Palace to take in the Imperial Gardens. I could NOT wait to see them, and after navigating the chaotic maze known as the Tokyo Metro we began our walk towards them. Along the way we found a beautifully designed garden full of fountains and water you could walk through. Some of the landscape was so intertwined with the walkable space it felt like you were trespassing. It was a simply beautiful creation, the perfect appetizer to my Imperial Garden excursion. We approached the front gates of the Imperial compound with about 20 other tourists. However, as we got closer it became apparent something was off. LOW AND BEHOLD! The Imperial Gardens are closed on Fridays. I sure planned that visit perfectly! (grumble grumble). Bummed, we took time to look at some of the surrounding open landscape of the Imperial Grounds. From what I was able to see, the immaculate and nearly perfect state the entire grounds were kept in is something to aspire to. A group of about 6 gardeners trimmed one tree for over 45 minutes, seemingly trimming and cleaning each and every unwanted needle from the Pine tree. I took time to soak it in while the others humored me. We took our pictures and headed on to our next adventure.
I will go into details about two other gardens I was able to walk through and we will look at how the Japanese celebrate the winter with beautifully lit Winter Illuminations throughout Tokyo!