Tokachi Millennium Forest: Pioneering a new way of gardening with nature
by Dan Pearson with Midori Shintani
In 2000 Dan Pearson was invited to become part of the evolution of the Tokachi Millennium Forest, a remarkable ecological project on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The 400-hecatre site, an area that had been cleared for agriculture and commercial forestry, had been acquired by Japanese newspaper magnate Mitsushige Hayashi to create a public park that would bring people closer to nature and would be sustainable for 1,000 years.
When Pearson arrived on site, work had already begun to regenerate the woodland flora, which was accessed by a series of walkways, there was a restaurant and goat farm, and trails that led up into the foothills, but it was clear that visitors were overwhelmed by the scale of the surroundings and the open expanses. Pearson was tasked with adding layers of intimacy to the scheme that would draw people into the whole site.
The centrepiece of Pearson’s Garden Masterplan is the Meadow Garden, an immersive celebration of indigenous plants and selections of them combined with garden-worthy plants that have a natural appearance, are familiar to temperate-zone gardeners and will cope with Tokachi’s compressed growing season and snow-covered winter months.
A third of the book is devoted to a detailed description of how this matrix was developed and continues to be managed, with a light hand, by head gardener Midori Shintani and her team. This section provides a masterclass in naturalistic planting that provides continual seasonal change and interest.
Painterly photography by Kiichi Noro and Syogo Oizumi reveal both the detail and wider views of this astonishingly beautiful meadow planting and of the forest flora. Shintani’s distinctive voice illuminates traditional Japanese reverence for the seasons (all 72 of them) and inspires the feeling that this unique ‘garden’ is in the surest of hands.