The garden art museum open every day for 50 years
Slowly panning my camera from left to right for about a minute to capture the karesansui (dry landscape garden), I couldn't find any reason to stop the camera. For this High Resolution Tour project, I’ve usually used 14 to 20 video shots and photos to make a one-minute video. It naturally takes that number of shots to portray a single theme. However, the main garden of the Adachi Museum of Art has a series of features that can be viewed from a single location without any disruption, so I was able to create a single uncut, unedited video.
The Adachi Museum of Art is known for its collection of works by Taikan Yokoyama and Rosanjin Kitaoji as well as its Japanese gardens, but the first thing you will notice is the carefully tended flora in a variety of gardens. Near the entrance, there is a peaceful moss garden, a karesansui garden featuring a magnificent “borrowed scenery” landscape, a pond and fountain with swarms of carp and a white gravel and pine garden. The video shows the karesansui garden, which is the main garden. A unique landscape is created by the three-dimensionality of the round-pruned rhododendron and Satsuki azaleas against the white sand bearing the refreshing brush marks of a broom, the black stones and the broad expanse of the softly curved lawn.
Shimane Prefecture’s Yasugi City is a rural area known for a traditional folk song and the accompanying humorous dance depicting scooping up of the small fish known as loaches. The founder of this astonishing art museum and garden was a self-made businessperson named Zenko Adachi. Born into a local farming family, his interest in entrepreneurial business bloomed when, as he was hauling charcoal, he began dealing in other products that he’d loaded onto his empty cart. After working in a variety of industries, he finally made a fortune in real estate in Osaka. Throughout the vicissitudes of his life, he was captivated by the paintings of Taikan Yokoyama.
In 1970, he began constructing a museum and garden in his hometown of Yasugi. After building up his collection and purchasing a large number of works by Taikan Yokoyama from the Kitazawa collection, he became a leading collector of the artist. The spirit of Zenko Adachi, a man who never shirked a single thing, and accomplished goals with persistence and passion, is evident in the focus he brought to the execution of this garden. The creation of this landscape is chronicled as the product of an irresistible force, one that demanded the transport of almost 800 red pines from the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture (600km away), Saji stones from Tottori Prefecture, the strange rocks for the karesansui garden from the Osakabe River in Okayama Prefecture, and the repeated replanting of a multitude of trees.
For Japan, a country that values gardens with a certain withered elegance and tranquility, a tightly arranged garden may be considered rather dazzling. However, for 18 years in a row, the Adachi Museum of Art has been first in a ranking of Japanese gardens begun in 2003 by a U.S. magazine specializing in Japanese gardens, in a field of first hundreds, and then thousands, of contenders. This magazine has readers in 55 countries. Second place is held by Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Villa. One of the points that helped garner this ranking is the fact that the entire staff cleans the gardens every morning and fully understands what these gardens are all about.
The seven gardeners who work exclusively for the museum take the lead in cleaning and pruning the plants every morning, and the museum staff are involved in this work as well. Not only the director of the museum, but also the staff of the tearoom and the Japanese tea ceremony tea house have a deep understanding of the proper attitude to take toward the garden. Surprisingly, the museum has not closed for a single day in the over fifty years since its opening in 1970. Even during the Bon Festival, New Year's Day, typhoons, and the Corona disaster, it continues to welcome visitors to the nearly 40 acres of gardens, sweeping the sand, pruning the plants and mowing the lawn.
There are two large glass-walled tea rooms overlooking a large garden, and one tea house where you can drink usucha (thin matcha green tea, consumed in a more casual manner) while seated on a chair. In 2020, Rosanjin Hall opened. The lighting in this space is delicate and the glass of the display cases is highly transparent. Not only is the collection of the ceramist Rosanjin Kataoji’s work extensive, but you find yourself naturally immersed in the exhibits. Though, in contrast to the garden, Rosanjin's seal engraving and pottery works produce an uninhibited and open-minded atmosphere, the museum is a very comfortable place to take a break after spending time engaging in the aesthetics of these works of art.