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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:32 03/09/2007
Debate: Commentary (September 3, 2003)

IISE Column: Gardening Community Development

Yoshihiro SUZUKI (Vice-Chairman, Institute of International Socio-Economic Studies)

This is an English translation of the first part of Mr. Suzuki's column on the homepage of the Institute of International Socio-Economic Studies (, September 3, 2003.

Waseda University Professor Heita Kawakatsu, who is well known for his study of "ocean state Japan," is now proposing the idea of "horticultural state Japan." I was impressed with his recent luncheon speech at Keidanren in which he revealed that he has sold his house in Tokyo and built a large house with an English-style garden full of flowers in the resort town of Karuisawa. Recently I took time to travel to visit his house and the beautiful garden.

According to Professor Kawakatsu, the past trend in Japan's high growth era was "urbanization," which created congestion and concentration in cities and depopulation and deconcentration in rural areas. As a result, big cities in local regions have become a kind of "mini-Tokyo." In the pre-industrialization era there was a Japanese tradition of appreciating water, greenery, and land, and traditional towns were "rural towns" full of water, greenery and flowers in harmony with rural surroundings. Professor Kawakatsu insists that we should create a movement towards "ruralization" instead of "urbanization," so that Japan's future cities can be free from the concrete jungle and become a paradise like "Arcadia" filled with water, greenery and flowers. As a first step we should touch and communicate with water, greenery, soil and flowers; that is "gardening." Anyone can start gardening anywhere with just a flower pot.

Professor Kawakatsu's property in Karuisawa is a testbed for his idea, and occasionally is made open to the public to help create a new community in cooperation with a group of volunteers.

A beautiful garden in Megumino New Town
A beautiful garden in Megumino New Town

Recently I visited a suburb of Sapporo in Hokkaido, where residents are working on community development by gardening. The place is Megumino New Town in Eniwa City, well known as the Town of Self-Defense Forces, a neighboring town of Sapporo City. This new town was built in the 1980s and is now under community redevelopment for the purpose of maintaining its beauty and charm in spite of aging building structures. In cooperation with the Hokkaido Development Agency, community residents and public officials in Eniwa City visited Christchurch, known as a horticultural city, in New Zealand, and, based on their visit worked with other members of the community to propose a movement of "flower community development." They now hold the Megumino Flower Garden Contest annually, where residents compete over the beauty of their front yards as viewed from the street. Nowadays, residents decorate not only their yards but also streets with flowers, and their community as a whole is becoming more beautiful every year.

There are hand-made walking tour maps available at the Eniwa train station, and an increasing number of visitors are coming to appreciate the beauty of this community. Business is good for local shops to sell plant and flower seeds, and the shopkeepers are providing classes and consulting services for horticulture, as well as an English-style garden and tea lounge for communications, and even a mini-concert for community members. In this way, "flower community development" helps local businesses grow with the community.

According to Professor Kawakatsu's thesis, in the next stage of "horticultural state development," cities and rural areas will interact with each other more actively, and urban areas as a whole will become more horticultural and agricultural. The city should look like a horticultural city, and rural areas should become like Arcadia, a horticultural paradise.

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