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Exhibition on Mirei Shigemori

2012.01.14

I visited the exhibition on Mirei Shigemori, titled “Exhibition of the Big Dipper garden” at The Watari-um of Contemporary Art (during December 4. 2011 to March 25. 2012.) The Watari-um of Contemporary Art is well versed in Japanese garden, and Mr. Toshiro Inada (deceased Professor Emeritus, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music) regularly had held the course, which was quite popular among experts.

The name, Mirei Shigemori, got well known to the landscaping field through Encyclopedia of Japanese Garden History in total 29 volumes. To experience Muroto Typhoon hit Kyoto was convincible enough for Mirei to realize a demand for built drawings for revitalization of the garden, so he formed a group with a few stuff to carry out actualization of it. By actually measuring more than 400 traditional gardens nationwide within approximately three years from 1936, he had formulated Japanese garden history at once. Meanwhile, as growing his own point of view toward the garden by learning old garden works, he carried out to make more than 200 gardens throughout his life.

When I entered the Tokyo University of Agriculture in 1966, led by the group, called the Research Society of Japanese Garden in Tokyo, derived from the thought of Mirei, I participated in the training camp in Kyoto. At that time, fortunately, I could meet Mirei giving the commentary. Also, I visited his work in Zuihoin of Daitokuji that became a one of unforgettable garden burnt into my mind forever.

Mirei Shigemori had been regarded as heretical until recently. He had been ignored by academics for long time since he was a lone wolf as a private researcher away from any factions in University as well as constant lack of references and his forcible logical configuration. Even though under that kind of condition, there were still some scholars shrewdly citing
survey drawings Mirei made.

Also, landscape architects actually charged on sites loathed the way Mirei often structured a lot of standing rock arrangement. They said that was out of Japanese garden style. Indeed, the style was uncompromising and restless for aspects ordinal landscape architects had. Even though examining the work with composure, there was generally lack of indigenous sense or technique in the work, but heavy use of originally designed fence and blue stones, hair mosses, Tanba stone pitching with no significant planting design.

Those offer certainly different sense in the garden but on the other hand, there is something seducing people in the design. I am also someone seduced by it and got into this profession.
However, the evaluation on him turned differently these days.

What could be the reason that changes the evaluation in such as exhibitions or TV commercials? I personally examined it as following.

1.Distinctive individuality
Hold its own style
As he gave a lesson to Isamu Noguchi
2. Holistic approach to life
expressed various cultures in daily life
Status as a leader for interaction between different professions
3. Sustained ability to take action
Will to restructure compendium of Japanese garden history
Keep up the garden (especially one including water features and a glove of trees) organization he made

Since the society has been unstable and more complicated, there must be many people holding their breaths and keeping in silence. It is recommendable for people like that to face the way of Mirei Shigemori and be exposed to his aura.

Yoshiki Toda

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