Hokkaido Gardens, Japan, Garden Tourism Part V

One of my favorite presentations at the North American Garden Tourism Conference in Toronto was by landscape designer Takano Fumiaki. His topic was Making a Garden Tourism Difference in Japan, specifically focusing on the Hokkaido Garden Show. He not only wowed me, but from the audience's reaction to his projects and the projects of local collaborators, he wowed all. If one would ever consider giving a standing ovation to a garden tourism presentation - this would have been the one. Pity the fool that had to present after Takano.

Hokkaido is an island in northern Japan. There is a garden trail, or "path," established by another group, also represented as part of Takano's presentaion, that has worked hard coordinating gardens large and small, private and public, around the island.

And then there's the Hokkaido Garden Show. This annual show features the major gardens of the area, as well as gardens designed as an invitational to landscape designers around the world. They also present events such as a Garden Market, Garden Tour, Garden Breakfasts, Garden Tea Parties, Garden Academy and more. Each year they add a few new gardens to the mix.

Takano's own projects on Hokkaido are what everyone was impressed by. As a landscape designer, he has worked around the world. But here in the gardens of his own making, he's created some gardens with "out-of-the-box" thinking. One of his philosophies is "design by deletion."

He has the ability to assess an area for a garden and find what makes it unique and potentially visually interesting. From there, he deletes all unnecessary materials and visual clutter so the focus is on the outstanding feature.

A good example is the photo at the top of the page. In this stand of dark-barked trees stands this sole, bright white, poplar tree. By eliminating distracting items, simplifying the view, and letting the viewer focus on this non-sequitur of a standout tree, it becomes a forest garden feature – without having planted anything.

The hilltop flower gardens existed without man's interference.
Another example would be this hillside garden of flowers. By assessing the area, he determined that the native flowers just needed to be encouraged – and all this hillside needed to be considered a garden is a path that helps the viewer enjoy the colorful fields from many vantage points. Again, no particular planting, just good planning and allowing people to appreciate what is already there.

There's a Meadow Garden, an Earth Garden, and a Forest Garden and more. Each is designed minimally. One rule they to observe is to neither take anything out of the space, and use materials found in the space. So in the Forest Garden there is a public area with benches, tables, and even a bar, made of trees that had naturally fallen.

There was not a take-away idea necessarily from Takano's work as a landscape designer. What the island of Hokkaido is doing - with a garden trail, a garden show, and the gardens designed by Takano, seems to have created a one-two-three punch of tourist-worthy garden experiences worth traveling for.

But for Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara, I would love to see (many years in the future) some sort of invitational garden design by established, and up-and-coming, landscape designers and architects.

Encouraging what was already there.
I've often thought it would be great, for our local spring garden show, Plantasia, if the area landscapers teamed up with area artists (of which we are blessed with many) to create their displays for the show.

But what if it was taken one step further and area landscapers worked with artists to create PERMANENT gardens someplace? I' love to see what a talented landscape designer (with a budget provided) would come up with if they were teamed up with a painter or sculptor, poet or puppeteer.
Nothing brought in, nothing taken away, just re-arranged.
Bar and stools from the forest.
A rill out of a fallen tree from the site.
All stones and wood were found on site.
The invitational gardens designed by gardeners from around the world yield projects like this, where someone can stand at the top and have photos taken from below in this flower "dress."
Another invitational garden design.
Another invitational garden design – a heart pulse garden.
Another invitational garden design – an endless garden with mirrors.


  1. So many great ideas. The riff is cool and so is the stone and cut wood "pit". The flower dress, impracticable in our climate, but beautiful.

    1. Donna,
      Have you ever attended a garden design invitational? They're usually pretty out there as far as design goes - garden or landscape designers get total freedom - no clients. But there's usually a design thought or concept that can be used in an everyday garden.

  2. I can't do anything by deletion. My Slavic roots force me to keep adding/wanting more: more color, more patterns, more stuff...even though my educated brain knows what I really need to do is edit. Perhaps if I had the discipline, my garden (and I) would look so much lighter and better. All I know for sure is, if I ever have the chance to do it all again, I'm going to marry a stew.

    1. Sue,
      I could discipline you.

      Don't marry a stew (we now call them flight attendants). Marry a pilot, they make more money. And you can retire on the alimony when he gets to his third wife...

  3. Very interesting article! Long time I am looking for a website that offers clear insights about tourist places to visit in tokyo. My long term search end here and your website are really stunning.


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