Promoting the Charm of Plants to the Masses

[From January Issue 2015]

NISHIHATA Seijun, Plant hunter
There is a plant hunter who collects plants not only from within Japan, but also from all over the world. NISHIHATA Seijun grows plants from the thousands of seeds he has collected. Based in Tokyo, he is attracting attention in the media – TV, radio, magazines, and so forth – for the numerous projects he began in 2012.
Seijun says he hasn’t always been interested in plants. When he was studying abroad aged 21, an incident occurred that changed his mind. “When I climbed the 4,000 meter high Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo, I happened to see Nepenthes rajah, the world’s largest carnivorous plant on the summit. That plant made a huge impression on me.”
Hanau Co. Ltd. in Hyogo Prefecture is a wholesaler of flowers and potted plants, founded 150 years ago. The business has been in Seijun’s family for five generations. After returning to Japan, he spent his days learning the family business as an employee. “I think my skills were refined through encounters with masters of flower arrangement, and others.” Meanwhile, some simple doubts began to emerge in his mind. “I noticed that neither the Japanese technique of adjusting the flowering period, nor rare foreign plant species, were widely known to the general public.”
“I began giving seminars to explain how and from where we get hold of materials for flower arrangement.” The number of invitations to give seminars increased and he started getting project proposals from both inside and outside Japan. Today he deals with more than 2,000 requests a year from companies, organizations and individuals. “The number of known plant species exceeds 260,000. It’s a wide field.”
“I once collected an olive tree that was hundreds of years old. After it was transported, we discovered it was infected and lost a large amount of money sending it back. Climbing cliffs to collect plants and communicating with local staff via English and body language is work that involves both risk and effort. Despite the risks, I want to satisfy those who need the trees.”
At Tokyo Designers Weeks 2014, an international creators’ event, 30 people chosen by lottery planted an Argentine palo borracho tree together with Seijun. The aim was for the participants to get a sense of the heft of the four-ton tree by pulling it on a cart. “Through contact with plants, I’d like people to experience a variety of things, in addition to their beauty and healing influence.”
At Yoyogi Village where his office is located, plants from different countries of the world are grown. To acknowledge the contribution this green tract of land has made to society and the environment, Yoyogi Village was designated an “Urban Oasis” in 2014. “In the future, I’d like to create fun botanical gardens in which I can collaborate with artists and musicians.”
Photos courtesy of Sora Botanical Garden
Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年1月号掲載記事]

プラントハンター 西畠清順さん

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