It might be paved, tarred and concreted, but plants are very, very important in Tokyo. In front of every store and every home we saw a carefully-tended cluster of pots and plants arranged just so, there are plant and flower shops around every corner. Long-limbed trees are given posts to rest upon, and every hedge and shrub is trimmed to perfection.
So that’s the quotidian approach. And then there are the gardens where people are really concentrating:
I’m not kidding when I say that wherever I pointed my camera in this magical Kyoto temple moss garden, my snapshots came back looking like this. Just add a fawn and a bluebird, and the picture of heavenly perfection is complete. In fact, who needs fawns and bluebirds? It’s perfect.
It’s quite breathtaking to be in a garden that has been tended for thousands of years, and to realise that it has been entirely intentionally arranged for beauty. Same can be said for the Imperial Palace gardens, where each tree in this vast space has been trimmed and tended for centuries.
It’s a funny mix – the loving care is manifested in a controlling relationship. But I suppose that plants in a pot or garden are not in natural, wild circumstances, and so control is what it’s about right from the start, and something like bonsai is just taking it very far down that path.
And heck, the illusion of wildness can also be beautifully cultivated, as we saw with this giant field of Cosmos flowers we came across on the way to Asekusa by ferry, not long after having passed under a monorail skating above a freeway while we took an elevated pedestrian walk through towering mirrorglass buildings.
I must say that this trip has made me ashamed of my own half-hearted efforts to keep plants, and my lazy blaming of my ‘black thumb’ for all the plants I’ve ruined.
In my attempts to bring a bit more Japan into my life (still feeling heartsick), I’ll be giving a lot more care and attention (and food!) to my plants at the studio and at home, too.