Professor Tomitaro Makino (1862-1957) is known as the “father of Japanese Botany”. He walked all around the nation conducting research and experiments of the various plants, during a time when little was known about Botany in Japan. He found and named more than 1500 new species and subspecies, left more than 400,000 specimens and drawings, and topped off his long career by publishing “Illustrated Flora of Japan” at the age of 78.
Makino Botanical Gardens was opened in 1958 to pass on his legacy to future generations. Initially, it was a public garden which housed plants native to Kochi prefecture, but in 1999 with the opening of the Museum of Plants and People, it became a multi-purpose venue, supporting education and research while also providing reprieve to those who visited.
“We’re currently involved in researching, collecting, and preserving wild plants from Kochi and other areas of Japan, as well as understanding the diversity of plants in other countries. We also survey plant resources, so we’ve become a facility that is frequented by botanists from around the world.” (Cultivation Technology, Seiko Fujii)
The expansive property which makes up almost half of Godaisan in Kochi, is home to more than 3000 species of plants that are a joy to view. Visitors can also enjoy the actual specimens and drawings that Makino left, as well as a replica of Professor Makino’s study “Yojo Shooku” with documents strewn about. There is a café and restaurant which serves an original blended tea based on plants that were loved by the Professor, and a botanical shop that allows visitors to linger as they walk around.
We walked around the garden after learning about the Professor’s many accomplishments at the Museum. The ecology garden replicating nature Professor Makita loved so much, areas filled with vibrant and colorful traditional Japanese gardening plants and seasonal Asian plants, and the green house with a Jungle Zone that looks like a primeval forest. All of these look as if they are natural to the locale, yet are carefully laid out to replicate the natural environment. The greenhouse allows you to learn about tropical flora, but “it’s so hot outside in the summer, the green house can seem cooler.” (Fujii)
Another feature of the Botanical Garden is the buildings which are made from sustainable materials. The round entrance is liberating, almost like a part of the sky, and blends in with the hallway leading to the Museum as well as with the many plants. The building was designed by Japanese architect Hiroshi Naito. The building was recognized as a prime example of architecture that protects the environment and blends in with its surroundings, and was awarded the 13th Togo Murano award among others. ,
One does not need to be a plant enthusiast to enjoy Makino Botanical Gardens. It’s refreshing just to walk around and take a deep breathe. If you find yourself becoming interested in the plants and nature as you walk around, perhaps Professor Makino’s passion has rubbed off.
- Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Gardens
- 4200-6 Godaisan, Kochi-shi, Kochi
- TEL 088-882-2601
- URL https://www.makino.or.jp/