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Kyoto as gardener's paradise.

Kyoto as gardener's paradise

So abundant and spellbinding are the gardens of Kyoto that it's tempting to go through them nonstop. But it's well worth pausing, in this gardener's paradise, for a look behind the scenes. Our trip was enriched by poking around nurseries and garden shops and visiting the bustling headquarters of Ikenobo ikebana.


For a good perspective, visit several of the nurseries and garden ornament businesses clustered in the Ukyo-ku district, northwest of central Kyoto and close to the temple gardens at Ryoanji (famous for its stone garden) and Kinkakuji (site of the Golden Pavilion).

Off the main road, Kitsuji-dori, stop in at number 13 Nakamichi for a visit with Touemon Sano. Mr. Sano and his son, 16th- and 17th-generation landscape architects, live in a 300-year-old house surrounded by their extensive nursery--which sells not only plants but also stone lanterns, water basins, urns, and provocative sculptures. You can bring most seeds and dirt-free bulbs home with you, but check with the USDA plant protection and quarantine office before trying it.


Rokkaku-do Temple, where ikebana began, is 3-1/2 blocks north of Shijo-dori on Karasuma-dori. Towering above the temple is the international headquarters of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society. Visitors with an appointment are welcome; write or call the English-speaking administrator, Kenneth Jones, Box 31, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604 Japan; (075) 231-4922.

This contemporary high-rise houses a museum, a gift and supply shop, huge classrooms (where you're welcome to watch students at work), and a roof deck with a panoramic view of Kyoto and its surrounding hills and wilderness.

Across the street from the main gate of Rokkaku-do Temple, and also on the same side and around the corner to the northeast, are a couple of interesting and dusty little ikebana supply stores. You'll find innumerable containers, floral pins in all sizes--even cast-iron links of monkey chain for just over $2 each.


While visiting the famous gardens in Kyoto's southeast quadrant--notably Kenninji and Shoren-in--don't miss some excellent garden supply outlets. They're all within walking distance of the major downtown shopping district.

For a good selection of tools, stop in at Daimaru department store's rooftop garden shop; you'll enjoy seeing how the store markets plants for their seasonal interest in much the same way as U.S. nurseries do. You can also find garden tools in the little cutlery shops along Shijo-dori, between Karasuma-dori and Kawaramachi-dori. Look for different styles of small clippers, which are beautifully made and easy to get home.


In addition to the Sunset book on the Orient (see page 114), an excellent source is A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto, by Marc Treib and Ron Herman (Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., Tokyo, 1983; about $12). For city maps, pamphlets offering overviews of Kyoto and its gardens, and lodging information, write or call Japan National Tourist Organization, JNTO (see page 114).

This is a good year to plan a gardener's trip to Japan. April through September, Expo '90, The International Garden and Greenery Exposition, will be held in Osaka, less than an hour by train from Kyoto. For details, call JNTO.
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Title Annotation:Pacific Travel Discoveries
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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