The Adachi Museum of Art, in the Shimane prefecture, is located in the Chugoku region, facing the sea of Japan.
About 600,000 visitors a year come from both home and abroad to visit the Museum, placed in the Japanese countryside and hosting collections of Japanese art, including paintings of Taikan Yokoyama (one of the great Japanese painters).
In the Showa era, the businessman Zenko Adachi invested his private property to create the Adachi Museum of Art and its beautiful gardens in 1970. From 2003, the American magazine "Journal of Japanese Gardening" has been including the gardens of the Adachi Museum in its top ranking.
Spreading across a surface of 165,000 square meters, the gardens consist of six areas - including "The Dry Landscape Garden" and "The White Gravel and Pine Garden" – with over 1,000 trees and plants from 80 different species. Rocks have been collected from Okayama and from other production areas, and even an artificial waterfall has been created.
Nobuhiko Kobayashi is the head gardener, and he has shared with us his secret for keeping the gardens beautiful all year around.
The plants are living creatures, so it is important to maintain them and harmonise them according to the climate, rather than designing.
There isn't any new concept to add to this garden. When people say it is beautiful, we should make it even more beautiful.
Why did you become a gardener?
I was born in Kyoto. When I was a child, I liked to observe the gardener who was taking care of my house garden: I had an admiration for the craftsmen who worked with their scissors.
And I felt it would be suitable for myself too. So after graduating from junior high school, I found myself a job in a landscaping company. After that, I was trained as a gardener in Kyoto, and I have been working in this museum for 22 years.
What does your work as Head Gardener consist in?
I do all the work including overall supervision and arrangement of the garden, along with the other six gardeners. I spearhead all the large-scale work, for example taking care of the garden’s 800 red pines at the same time. Apart from the visible actions, such as pruning the trees, we have a nursery where we grow plants that will be used and replanted in the future.
We also look after the rocks and stones, the sand, the water and the carps in the pond…. When birds flip the moss we repair it, and we replant if a tree is in a bad condition, even during opening hours. Our work is carried out on a case-by-case basis.
What feature of the gardens do you think is the most impressive? Also, what details do you most pay attention to?
In am confident in the splendor of the Borrowed Landscape. It is a style of landscaping distinctive of Japan. I think that there is no other example like the continuous “Borrowed Landscape” that is the feature of these gardens. We pay the most careful attention to make sure it is in proper perspective and beautiful gradation, from whatever viewpoint visitors observe it: near, mid distance and long distance. It is the fullness that in Borrowed Lanscape is expressed as “mountain”. In actual fact, the Borrowed Landscape stretches across streets and paddy fields, but the effect is as if it were uninterrupted.
How would you define a skilled gardener?
The plants are living creatures, so it is important to maintain them and harmonise them according to the climate, rather than designing. For example, stones never change, but trees are growing. Therefore the adjustment is important to keep the right balance. A skilful gardener is someone who can predict how to adjust the different elements, rather than someone who just masters the technique. The founder, Zenko Adachi himself, could not draw. So, the original design of this garden was created thanks to the cooperation of gardening experts; Zenko Adachi tweaked it, with his attention to detail. He made this garden in his style while thinking of people who would be looking at it. As the founder always said, "a Japanese Garden is a living painting": and I have always deeply believed in these words. This is a garden to enjoy as a living painting.
What factors still encourage you?
When people say this is a wonderful garden, we are very happy. Some gardeners are in their teens and twenties. They are willing to work hard. They made the choice of entering into this world by themselves, because they were attracted by this garden. Rather than teaching every possible thing, we invite them to watch, to imitate and actually do it. I want them to gradually grow up, even if this includes making mistakes. I have been working for almost 40 years, and I still have a lot to learn, just like a beginner. There isn't any new concept to add to this garden. When people say it is beautiful, we should make it even more beautiful. That is all we should do always.