the Internet, where I discovered there was a seminar being held in Kyoto
for foreigners aboutJapanese gardens (June, 1999). I was told the seminar
enrollment was full. However, at the last
minute someone canceled, and becauseI was already living here, they contacted
me, and I was able to go on a week's notice.
The seminar was inspiring, and I wanted to do more hands-on training.
But even the leaders of the seminar were a bit elusive about how this could
happen. I was advised to find a landscape design company that would let
me work with them. How to do that, I had to figure out on my own.
My main interest was in finding out how the pines got those wonderful
On a visit to the famous Ritsurin Koen in
Takamatsu, they happened to be trimming pines while we were there. I got
up the nerve to ask one of the workers if they ever accepted interns. He
called his boss, who told me "no," but recommended I contact
the prefectural job re-training center in my area.
But how to find this place?? In our relatively small city, we are very
fortunate to have 2 active international associations. I made a visit to
one to ask for their help. They contacted the job re-training center for
me, and we learned that you had to be 55+ years old to be accepted. I asked
them if they had any other ideas how I could learn to trim pines. They
then contacted the landscaper's association for the prefecture. Within
a few days, a meeting with the head of the association was arranged, and
I was introduced to Mr. Kumio Tagawa.
Mr. Tagawa is the owner and head landscaper
for one of the largest landscape design companies in the area, "Nankai
Zoen." He was glad to meet me, and said I was welcome to come work
with him as much as I wanted. (Although this exchange was in Japanese,
and of course language skills are always helpful, much hands-on learning
is possible with very few words.)
Wednesdays are the day that I am free to do gardens. As it turns out,
that is the day Nankai Zoen is closed. So instead of learning with his
crew, Mr. Tagawa gives me private lessons trimming the pines he has been
working on for decades in his own nursery (yard??field??).