Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Tosa Masters - Koichiro Nojima (The Landscape Designer from Kochi City)

Nojima designed and created this cluster
of trees and boulders near the Yakushi-do
building of Dainichi-ji temple.
   It’s been 40 years since Koichiro Nojima dove into the world of landscape design after marrying into a landscaping family. Thanks not only to his superior skill, but also to his contributions to the formation of the next generation of landscapers, Nojima was selected in 2012 as Kochi Prefecture’s thirty-ninth “Modern Master.” Along with these accomplishments, Nojima is also one of Kochi’s few professionally qualified tree doctors.
   When he began to learn landscaping, with zero knowledge about the job, the first tool Nojima was allowed to handle was a broom to sweep up the leaves and twigs that had been pruned from the garden plants. While sweeping, he says, he observed the more experienced workers at their tasks, and memorized their pruning methods. Eventually, he began to be allowed to use the big pruning shears to prune things that already had a good shape, such as hedgerows. A few years later, he had improved enough to use the small shears as well.

   Nojima says landscaping has changed a great deal over his long career. In the past, the most common kind of landscape design for a private home involved the use of large boulders and “tailored trees” (trees whose trunk and branches have been artificially shaped by a gardener). These days, however, boulders are almost never used, and low-maintenance trees that change visibly with the seasons are preferred. Also, because larger garages have become common, the size of the garden itself has become more limited.
At the request of the priest-in-residence,
Nojima relaid the granite flagstones
and created this “green tunnel”
around the pathway
to the donation window.
   Nojima’s favorite part of landscaping is “creating from zero.” Even with the same materials and the same space, ten landscapers will design ten different gardens—there is no right or wrong answer in landscape design. Therefore, when he instructs inexperienced landscapers, he takes care to say, “Here’s how I would do it,” instead of, “This is wrong.”
   When we interviewed him, Nojima was kind enough to show us around one of his gardens: the one at Dainichi-ji temple in Noichi Town, Holy Site No. 28 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. He began working on this garden, five or six years ago, at the request of the priest-in-residence. Since it is a mountain temple, Nojima chose to take advantage of the trees and natural formations that already existed there. As a result, visitors can really feel the stillness and contentment of the green space. At every turn, we could catch glimpses of the refinement of the temple, such as the large boulders dotting the gardens, and the small round stone placed atop a stepping-stone in the central garden to indicate, “No Entry beyond This Point.”
Nojima (right) directing stone-laying.

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