Takashi Kanda, the famous Japanese landscape & garden designer, is an inspiring and eager man. He has big dreams and plans, which he is turning into reality. I went to interview him and to see his current project on a rainy day and summer.
When he designed the garden of Hanasaku no yu (hot spring) he fell in love with Katashina. As a result, in 2010 he bought an old farm house in Katashina. Nevertheless, this is not just any house, it is actually the oldest farm house of Katashina, namely 200 years old. Kanda-san has been remodeling the farm for the past 4 years and is still busy today.
We pass a stable of goats and some angry geese until we reach the farm house where Kanda-san and a small goose await us. Later we find out that the goose was rejected by its parents and that Kanda-san and his wife are the foster parents. He leads us into the old traditional Japanese farm house, the goose follows. Little light illuminates the big room that contains dark wooden furniture. I expected a more Japanese design inside – something felt different. I somehow felt a bit nostalgic, reminded of my current home: Scotland – maybe it was because of the light sounds of highland music playing in the background or the cold & rainy day
Kanda-san quickly starts to explain about his work and how he is combining 2 styles to create something new. He has been greatly influenced by Great Britain’s culture and nature and is now fusing the Japanese and the British style right in this farm. It was all clear now why I had been reminded of Scotland since the moment I had entered!
The artist has successfully merged the British style into this old Japanese farm. The house contains an ambience and spirit of Great Britain and Japan at the same time. Kanda-san leads us into the next room and tells us that a lot had to be renovated, including the walls that had to be redone because the supporting pillars were slanted. He has completed all this work by himself, even throughout the winter at -26°C, where he really just wanted to quit. However, he did not give up and here we are marveling at the old British bar in the centre of room. He picked out the tables, chairs and bar in the UK and imported them to Japan in containers.
There are many details in his work around the house that remind me of an old cottage in the highlands. However, the Japanese style is eminently present at the same time – the original Japanese chestnut in the walls, the ceiling, the old door, the roof…
Outside there is a field where he has planted vegetables and fruits. Further in the back we find a small pond with trout. Kanda-san tells us that at night this is a great place to see the many fireflies that light up.
The outside also merges the Japanese and British styles very well.
Back inside we have a cup of tea and some flan (made with their own eggs) – my tea even tastes like English tea… but I was mistaken, it must have been the influence of the British atmosphere in this house.
The artist and designer further explains that he has given his project a name in order to summarise his work and aims: ‘ECOLO Village – it’s an acronym, where each letter has its own meaning:
Environmental – being a garden and landscape designer, Kanda-san places great importance on nature and the environment. He says that in nature everything can be used and that there is no waste.
Collective – the word links to a collective life, coexistence and learning from the past. Ultimately he wishes to create a place for people to form a community, thus striving for a natural, calming and friendly environment.
Organic – organic farming and an organic lifestyle. On top of that, Kanda connects this word to organization and a harmonious balance between the elements as a whole.
Learning – life is a learning experience and he wants to form a place where people can learn from the past and from each other. He aspires to make people want to live in Katashina and feel inspired to enjoy the simplicity of nature and life.
Originality – and imagination are guiding principles of his work. Kanda-san aims to preserve the old and retain the original intentions of the 200 year old farm. However, he wants to combine his ideas and inspirations together with the old to create something new, innovative and attainable – a place where people can live independently and feel like it is their home. Namely, a type of village and community. Therefore he is transforming the farm into a guesthouse, an organic and self –pick farm, restaurant & pub. The artist describes that the origin of the word ‘pub’ is public house, and that is exactly what he wants to create. Kanda-san wants to establish a place where people can be together to socialize and collectively learn from each other, while being in a beautiful yet natural, rustic and authentic environment.
Bed and Breakfast for Garden Lovers (BBGL) is an organization of B&B’s that have beautiful gardens. In Japan there are 300 members and Kanda-san is one of them – so he also receives visits from the BBGL community. But other people have been visiting him and his work throughout the past 4 years. So if you are in Katashina, I would strongly advise you to go and have a look for yourself. As the house was very dark inside, my photographs did not turn out so great. Also Kanda-san says that he will finish by the end of August 2014. However, others have told me that he claimed he would finish last year already – he is just a true artist.
As I was thoroughly impressed by Kanda’s work I had to revisit the ECOLO village during my 2nd stay in Katashina. As Aya and I arrived, I told her about the angry geese attacking us during our last visit – it turned out that it was even more mad this time and kept biting my legs. Our visit was in early January 2015 and Kanda-san was still not finished with the last details of his ECOLO village. Yet, the project had a lot of progress and I was astonished all over again by this magical place. The house and its garden has so much character!
We sat together around a little stove on 3 little stools drinking tea, while Kanda-san was preparing wild-rice-yaki-mochi. Then he went to get some of his dried kaki-fruits (persimmons) from outside. The kaki grows well in the Hanasaku area and many places hang up a special type in the sunny and cold weather for a month to let it dry – they are delicious! He told us about the progress – how he made bed frames out of the old silkworm shelves. He explained his final steps towards the opening. And he enlightened us about his aspirations. He hopes to open the ECOLO village in the end of March or April. Yet, Kanda-san likes to keep it small-scale to maintain the tranquility and simplicity of the house. But I am sure you could be able to shortly pop by to marvel at his art piece or better yet stay there!!
Here are some photographs of my recent visit to have an update on the ECOLO village:
I can’t wait to hopefully see the finished ECOLO Village one day!
Kanda-san is staying in Katashina. He already has an idea for his next upcoming challenge. He bought another house, 150 years old, which is close to the Hanasaku no yu. He wants to transform it into a Japanese gallery.
Takashi Kanda’s Website: